ONE in five health and care workers have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, a new study suggests.

Figures from the Frontline Covid study, published in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology also found that almost three in five health and social care workers suffered a mental health problem.

58% of workers in these sectors were deemed to have a mental health disorder between May 27 and July 23 last year.

And 22% met the criteria for PTSD, according to the study led by researchers from UCL and the University of Haifa, Israel

The study examined data on 1,194 health and social care workers from hospitals, nursing or care homes and other community settings across the UK.

The researchers found that 47% had clinically significant anxiety and 47% had depression.

Concerns raised by staff included:

  • Fears about infecting others with Covid.
  • Being unable to talk with their managers about how they were coping.
  • Feeling stigmatised about their role.
  • Concern over not having had reliable access to personal protective equipment (PPE).

Lead author Dr Talya Greene said: “Our study shows that more than half of health and social care staff surveyed met criteria for a mental disorder following the first wave of Covid-19 in the UK.

“Importantly, we found that rates of distress were high, not only among doctors and nurses, but across a wide range of health and social care roles, such as allied health professionals, ambulance workers, hospital porters, pharmacists and care home staff.”

She warned: “Let’s be clear: we may be on the verge of a mental health crisis across the health and social care sector.

“So we need to make sure that specialist help is offered and accessible across all the different roles and settings.”

Dr Greene added: “It is important that this support is planned for the long term. Our findings highlight the urgency for immediate long-term funding for specialist mental health services for health and social care workers.”

In response to the study, Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Frontline health and care workers could be experiencing trauma as a result of seeing extraordinary numbers of people dying or struggling to cope with the virus.

“Without the right psychological support in place, trauma can lead to debilitating mental health problems.

“To prevent a mental health crisis in the NHS and social care sector it’s absolutely vital that all staff are able to access the right support when they need it, during and after this pandemic.”