Mental health support should be available for all frontline NHS staff as they deal with the pressures brought about by surging flu figures and significant absence due to sickness.

Our Chief Executive Anna Daroy said that frontline workers were under enormous strain brought about by increasing hospital flu cases and rising staff absences.

Anna welcomed more mental health support for ambulance services and community falls services, announced by the NHS as part of its winter plans.

Counselling support

But she said support – including counselling - must be available for those who need it and that our members were ready and available to provide it.

Anna said: “It’s pleasing to hear the NHS is expanding the mental health support available as winter pressures mount.

“However, services need longer term planning, making full use of the talents of the mental health workforce, including counsellors and psychotherapists, to give the public certainty that comprehensive support will be available far beyond this winter.”

Weekly winter data released by the NHS today shows the wide range of pressures facing NHS workers.

Hospital admissions for flu have risen by two thirds in a week with an average of 1,939 cases in England’s hospitals every day last week, up from 1,162.

The NHS reported an average of 60,583 absences due to staff sickness every day last week, up almost a fifth on last month. The number of staff off work because of Covid has risen by a third since mid-November, from 5,454 to 7,218 a day.

There’s also been a near record demand for the 111 service with 721,301 calls last week – a 60% increase on the same week last year when there were 452,644 calls. The rise is partly due to parents concerned about Strep A symptoms, the NHS said.

Public agrees

Anna said: “It’s clear that frontline NHS workers are under enormous and increasing pressure and it’s bound to take its toll.

“The mental health support needs to be there – and the public agrees too.

“Our 2022 Public Perceptions Survey found that 82% of people in the UK agree that counselling or psychotherapy should be available for all frontline NHS staff.

“And we have 60,000 members who are ready and willing to work to provide that support at an important time.”

Anna added: “And it’s not just for frontline NHS staff we need to see this step change, it’s right across the board.

Renewed focus

“We need to see the Government provide an urgent and renewed focus on mental health – and our members and the counselling professions must be a critical element of this.

“We continue to call for the Government to bring forward their commitment to a fully funded 10-year mental health plan as soon as possible.

“This should be underpinned by a comprehensive NHS workforce plan, with sufficient funding and which fully reflects and involves the counselling workforce.”