NHS staff launch website to help colleagues working in ‘scary’ and ‘heartbreaking’ environments

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Two friends have launched a free set of online resources to help NHS staff cope with the stresses of working during the coronavirus pandemic.

Trained cognitive behavioural hypnotherapists Slee Parrish and Alex James designed NHS in Mind after becoming concerned by the impact of the outbreak on the mental health of frontline workers.

The website contains instructions for a set of eight techniques, accompanied by simple YouTube videos, to help staff manage feelings of fear, anxiety and stress while they are at work.

This includes breathing exercises, guided meditation and relaxation techniques.

Parrish, who also works part-time as a senior nurse at the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, said colleagues had become “extremely anxious” after seeing the impact of coronavirus on health professionals in Italy.

“There was panic, there was fear, fear for themselves, fear for their families, fear for our patients,” she said.

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Working with James, who has access to a studio, the pair created the bespoke support toolkit in just seven days.

The resources are designed to be easy to grasp and simple to do, to encourage staff to use them during their long hospital shifts.

“The breathing exercises are really, really important,” Parrish said.

“Whenever they realise they are feeling panicked, or when they are going into a very stressful situation, they can just do these.”

She added: “It calms them, gives them more outward focus, attention, concentration, it gives that all back to them.”

While initially designed for her own colleagues, Parrish urged other NHS trusts to distribute the resources to help lessen the long-term mental-health impact of the pandemic.

“This is all about making sure our NHS staff are helped in anyway we can do it,” she said.

Other public sector and emergency service workers like teachers and firefighters would also benefit from the resources, Parrish said.

She has been told NHS in Mind has already been put to use as far afield as South Africa and Bermuda.

Parrish warned that colleagues were working long hours in “awful conditions”, while having to wear “hot” and “uncomfortable” personal protective equipment.

“We are not used to this, as medical practitioners we used to helping and seeing our patients survive and being happy about that,” she said.

“But there is a proportion of our patients we are helping but we can’t do anything, we are trying everything and they are dying and that is going to have a huge impact on our colleagues.

“They are going to come out with similar things that the military has come out with after being on the frontline.

“We are also going to be losing colleagues, we know that… That’s not only scary, it’s heartbreaking.”

Parrish emphasised that her NHS trust was trying hard to ensure staff were properly supported and equipped.

But she added: “It does feel for my colleagues that we are being sent out with watering cans to put out a bush fire.

“People are putting their lives on the line and our management are desperately trying to get us the right kit”.

She asked people to keep her updated on how the resources were being shared, and called for suggestions on how it could be adapted for police officers and ambulance services.

The free resources can be found at nhsinmind.co.uk.

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