All NHS doctors and dentists in England will be able to access a free, comprehensive mental health service, health secretary Matt Hancock has announced.
Mr Hancock said NHS Practitioner Health, which is currently staffed by 200 experts, will offer confidential advice and support, in person or over the phone, for those who have faced a stressful incident at work or feel they are struggling with their mental health.
He said staff will be able to access support 24/7 through a dedicated phone line and a crisis text service which will be available through the night. Service users will be able to book appointments with a clinician of their choice through the accompanying app, who will be able to prescribe medication, support them while off work and follow up as appropriate. They will also have access to a range of individual and group therapies.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the service will also be open to nurses and other NHS staff, but that they are encouraged to use their local mental health services. The spokesman said:
‘We want all NHS staff to feel supported at work and the upcoming People Plan will put the wellbeing of all employees across the health service at the heart of ensuring the NHS is a great place to work.
‘Nurses and all other NHS staff are encouraged to access mental health services local to them, but can contact NHS Practitioner Health if they feel they have nowhere to turn and the service will aim to signpost them to the most appropriate help.’
A Royal College of Nursing spokesman said nurses would welcome the mental health support if it were available to them, but that they would like to know how the service will be funded to meet the demand. The spokesman said:
‘The secretary of state should clarify what support is available to nursing staff.
‘It is no good for nurses to be told that a scheme excludes them one minute, and closed to them the next, with no indication as to how the service will be funded to meet any extra demand. Nursing staff would, of course, welcome an expansion of mental health support, but they also need to know that the necessary money and resources follow.
‘Earlier this year, the government pledged a 24-hour mental health support service for all NHS staff including nurses, but as yet we still know little about where this other scheme is up to, or even if it has got off the ground at all.
‘The secretary of state should take this opportunity to update the profession.’
To sign up, call 0300 0303 300 or email email@example.com.
The line is open Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and Saturday 8am to 2pm.
Text NHSPH to 85258 for the out-of-hours crisis text service.