Improving mental health services and supporting the wellbeing of staff should be among the top five priorities for the NHS, according to a survey of UK adults.
Conducted by Ipsos MORI, the study found that 38% of the over 3500 adults surveyed want better support for NHS staff, while 36% want better mental health services.
The results were discussed during a webinar hosted by Ipsos MORI and The Health Foundation.
Speaker Isabel Hardman, presenter of Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster and assistant editor of the Spectator, agreed with the idea that workforce support should be improved, saying that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on NHS staff needs more attention.
“The mental health impact of the pandemic on the NHS workforce has not being discussed enough in Westminster," said Hardman.
“Some NHS staff are not going to want to carry on full time or perhaps even leave the NHS because the pandemic has been so hard on them.”
In January, findings from King's College London showed the substantial effect working during the pandemic was having on frontline NHS staff.
Of over 700 intensive care staff from across the UK, almost half met the threshold for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or severe anxiety.
Plans have since emerged to improve wellbeing support for NHS staff, with NHS chief executive Simon Stevens announcing 40 mental health 'hubs' for healthcare workers.
More recently, extra funding was announced to continue mental and occupational support services for frontline staff, as part of a broader investment package for the healthcare system.
Most respondents to the Ipsos MORI survey (50%) believe that the NHS’s top priority
after the pandemic should be to improve waiting times for routine services such as
diagnostic tests or operations.
This is followed by increasing the number of staff in the NHS (43%) and vaccinating people against COVID-19 (41%).
Despite the demands of the NHS pointed out in the survey, UK adults said that the NHS is one of the best health systems in the world (75%) and are satisfied with the running of the NHS (63%).
Anna Quigley, Head of Health and Social Care at Ipsos MORI, said: “These results show yet again the pride that the public has in the NHS, no doubt bolstered by its work during the pandemic.
"However, the data also shows the challenges that lie ahead for the NHS in terms of public expectations, at a time when the service is facing a backlog of elective surgery cases, increased demand for mental health services, and the ongoing impact of caring for patients affected by COVID-19”.
Download the full survey results here.
Written by Fábio Serrato
News reporter for Talking Mental Health