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Coronavirus is taking a ‘catastrophic’ toll on the mental health of medical workers, think tank warns

THE coronavirus pandemic is having a “catastrophic” impact on the mental health of medical workers, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) warned today.

YouGov polling for the left-wing think tank found that 50 per cent of 996 healthcare workers questioned across Britain said that their mental health had declined over the past two months.

The figure was even higher – 71 per cent – for staff new to the profession.

Some 49 per cent feared for their families’ safety amid a lack of testing and personal protective equipment (PPE), while 43 per cent were worried about their ability to keep patients safe with such heavy burdens on the service. 

Seventy per cent felt that the government had not done enough to protect their health through priority testing and providing PPE. 

The IPPR warned of a possible exodus of healthcare workers in the future, as one in five people surveyed said that they were now more likely to leave the profession. 

“Given existing workforce shortages, this could create a catastrophic crisis of capacity in the health and care system,” the report said. 

GMB national officer Rachel Harrison warned that after years of inadequate pay and long hours, the coronavirus could be the “tipping point” for care workers. 

“It is time that care workers got the protection and recognition they deserve,” she said.

IPPR urged the government to reverse the trend, stressing that PPE and testing were the “bare minimum” that front-line staff should expect from ministers. 

The government must now acknowledge the contribution and sacrifice of healthcare workers by delivering guarantees to support them during and after the crisis, IPPR said. 

This could be started with a bonus equivalent to 10 per cent of their salary, mental-health support and more childcare provision, the report suggests.

Labour shadow mental health minister Rosena Allin-Khan said:  “Carers have been placed in an impossible situation where they are having to carry out their work, often without adequate PPE, while seeing the virus spread through their care homes. 

“They are having to bury the people in their care at a far greater rate than ever before.” 

She said that mental-health support should be made available to all carers now — not just to those who benefit from a “postcode lottery depending on the resources that local trusts and councils can offer.”

Care England chief executive Martin Green said: “An important legacy of this crisis must be securing the status of social care as one equal to the NHS. 

“Never again must social care be the underdog.”

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