One in two health and social care workers across the UK feel their mental health has declined in the last eight weeks, according to a new report.
The survey of 996 workers by YouGov and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) also found that 42% of these professionals do not feel the government has done enough to support their mental health.
When asked to select what they feel the government should prioritise for the coming weeks, further support for mental health was selected by 60% of respondents – behind only increased efforts to protect and test workers (84%) and increased recognition of staff (65%).
The IPPR report, Care fit for carers: ensuring the safety and welfare of NHS and social care workers during and after Covid-19, said: “The severe impact of disease outbreaks on the mental health of healthcare workers is well evidenced. Many will experience stress, anxiety, bereavement or trauma. This will be made harder by the impact of social distancing on their support network.
“Yet, many are not eligible for bespoke therapy – and will be forced to cope alone.”
The IPPR said the government must ensure all workers’ mental health, by extending priority access to therapy to 2 million more patient-facing health and care professionals.
It has also called for a “safety guarantee” for health and social care workers by arming them with adequate personal protective equipment and ensure they are tested for coronavirus.
The government should also provide grants to health and care workers who fall into arrears during the crisis period, the IPPR said, and extend the NHS England scheme to provide hotel stays free of charge to care workers who are travelling long distances to work or are working more than 14 hours a day.
The report calls for a pay guarantee for workers and introduce a COVID-19 pay bonus of 10%.
“Covid-19 has shown, once and for all, how valuable and skilled workers in the health and care sector are. No one in this sector should earn too little to live off,” the report said.
Finally, the government must step in to help workers by funding more childcare provision, the IPPR said.
“Many [health and care workers] are juggling their work on the Covid-19 frontline with new unpaid care commitments. Government’s shielding strategy might mean a health or care worker is now the only caregiver for an elderly or ill loved one. Changes to shift patterns, social distancing and school closures have made childcare far more difficult for many,” the report explained.