Unions welcome Labour’s ‘care for carers’ plan

Unions have welcomed Labour’s plans for a shake-up of mental health support to ensure that millions of NHS and care workers receive the same fast-tracked help and advice.

The plan includes:

  1. A new national hotline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  2. Follow-up support, including specialist assessments and referrals
  3. Intervention and treatment, including specialised PTSD support
  4. Follow-up and sign-posted to external services, such as alcohol and addiction services

Labour’s spokesperson on mental health Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said: “Even before the pandemic hit, the case for investing in this kind of support was clear. Coronavirus has exacerbated the existing crisis in mental health.

“Many NHS and social care staff have been scared of going to work, and they have lost patients and colleagues. It has been heartbreaking to witness the toll this virus has taken on staff mental health.”

UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Health and care staff have been working under huge pressures over the past few months, while most of us have been safe at home. Fears about falling ill, passing the virus on to loved ones or those they care for, and working without adequate safety kit have only added to the stress.

“Even before the pandemic hit, overworked staff were suffering with their mental health. The Covid crisis will only have heightened these problems. Health and care workers, who’ve been up against it since March, need time off to recharge their batteries and support to help them cope with what they’ve been through.

“A one-size-fits-all approach of occupational health assistance won’t work. Support must be much more tailored to suit individual needs than is currently the case. The government needs to get much better at looking after all those who do so much to look after all of us.”

GMB national secretary Rehana Azam said: “Our precious resource throughout the pandemic has been our key workers. We have heard every day from frontline workers telling us that they are at breaking point. The stress they have been under over the last few months has been unprecedented.

“GMB is pleased that Labour have recognised the mental health crisis our workers face and hope the government recognise this and look seriously at these proposals.

“Our NHS & social care workforce are the very people who have kept us safe during this pandemic. We owe it to them to make sure they get the support they need.”

Unite national officer Jacalyn Williams said: “These plans would create much needed support for the mental health of NHS and care staff who have faced the brunt of the worst impacts of the pandemic day after day.

“Having lost patients and colleagues, and with the threat of the virus to themselves and their loved ones ever present, it is no surprise that the mental health of staff in the health and social care sector has suffered.

“After years of service cuts, staff shortages and increased workloads, there was already a mental health crisis amongst health and social care workers, but the pandemic has made the situation a lot worse.

“Unite welcomes Labour’s proposals and calls on the government to implement them as soon as possible.”

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