An estimated 60,000 NHS workers are believed to be living with post-traumatic stress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research.
NHS Charities Together also found nine in 10 workers (90%) say it will take them years to recover.
Meanwhile, nearly three-quarters (73%) have expressed concerns about their colleagues leaving the workforce due to poor mental health.
Neal Ashurst, an operating department practitioner, was redeployed during the pandemic, switching from anaesthetics to a critical care unit.
He told Sky News he had felt “incredibly apprehensive” initially as it meant significant changes from his usual role which he found “very daunting”.
While the pressure continued to mount on staff, Mr Ashurst was conscious his own wellbeing was being affected as his own trauma began to grow.
He recalls an incident where he was called to a cardiac arrest, a situation made more stressful by the COVID procedures in place at the time.
Following the incident, Mr Ashurst says: “I wasn’t sleeping particularly well, I became quite ratty, I was a bit short tempered.”
He continued: “I just thought, I can’t do this anymore.
“You just keep seeing the same situation over and over again, not really processing it to the point where you can forget about it.
“The difficult thing was really just admitting that and actually deciding that, you know, I can’t carry on.”
COVID-19 inquiry to focus on pandemic’s impact on mental health, children and young people
Across the NHS workforce, mental health is worsening.
At Barts Health NHS Trust a dedicated psychological support service has been established for members of staff.
Dr Carla Croft told Sky News the team aims to support those struggling, work on prevention, and ultimately try to change the culture.
She added isolation experienced by NHS staff during the pandemic has acted as a driving force for poor mental health.
“People who were well supported, who had people around them and good teams around them seemed to have survived quite well.
“But those who were not feeling that way haven’t as much so we’re trying to be a part of shifting the culture a bit but also being there for people so no one goes through what they’re going through alone.”
Lifeblood of the NHS
In a statement, an NHS spokesperson told Sky News: “Staff are the lifeblood of the NHS which is why, in response to the pressure of the pandemic, we have strengthened the mental health support offered to them to make sure they get rapid access to assessment and evidence-based mental health services and support.
“This includes 40 local staff mental health and wellbeing hubs across the country which provide proactive outreach and clinical assessment and a continued focus within NHS organisations on staff health and wellbeing.”