A “bespoke” helpline has been set up in Wales to support NHS and social care staff who are struggling with their mental health.
Volunteers for the Samaritans now offer confidential support tailored for those working specifically in healthcare settings.
The British Medical Association (BMA) in Wales claims as many as 40% of doctors have accessed wellbeing support since the pandemic began.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething, who confirmed that the helpline will be available daily between 7am and 11pm, said: “I fully recognise and appreciate the challenges and immense pressure facing our dedicated health and social care workforce at all times, but particularly during this unprecedented time of personal and professional strain.
“It is even more important than ever that any individual working in the NHS and social care in Wales has access to trusted emotional wellbeing support outside the workplace as well as being able to talk to each other and to their manager.”
A Welsh language version of the service will also be available between 7pm-11pm daily.
“It will be scaled-up over time to replicate the opening times of the English language line as more bi-lingual volunteers are recruited and trained,” Mr Gething added.
“Individuals will be dealing with a combination of personal and professional factors which are acutely different to their old ‘normal’ both during and after the current emergency situation, so we are working with NHS employers, our social care partners and with the trade unions to further develop the wellbeing offer for our workforce.”
How the Samaritans can help anyone with a mental health problem
Mr Gething said that learning gathered from the uptake of this service will help the Welsh Government make longer-term plans for the wellbeing support offered to the NHS and social care workforce.
BMA Cymru Wales Council chairman, Dr David Bailey, said: “We welcome the introduction of the Samaritans’ confidential support line for NHS staff and volunteers.
“Working on the frontline tackling the Covid-19 pandemic has been a time of high stress and anxiety for clinicians and staff across Wales, many of whom have struggled with their mental health, and we know that 40% of doctors have accessed wellbeing support since the pandemic began.”
He added: “It’s vital that doctors who look after others, remember to look after their own mental and physical health.
“We think that this will be a great complementary addition to the BMA’s dedicated wellbeing support service for all doctors, medical students and their families accessible 24 hours a day and seven days a week.”
The number for the new service is 0800 484 0555.