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NHS staff left traumatised by first Covid wave

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Many hospital staff treating the sickest patients during the first wave of the pandemic were left traumatised by the experience, a study suggests.

Researchers at King's College London asked 709 workers at nine intensive care units in England about how they were coping as the first wave eased. Nearly half reported symptoms of severe anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or problem drinking. One in seven had thoughts of self-harming or being "better off dead".

Nursing staff were more likely to report feelings of distress than doctors or other clinical staff in the anonymous web-based survey, which was carried out in June and July last year. Just over half reported good well-being.

Victoria Sullivan, an intensive care nurse at Queen's Hospital in Romford, said she often can't sleep because she's thinking about what is happening at the hospital.

Her worst moment was breaking the news of a death on the phone, she said, adding that the screams from the patient's relatives "will honestly stay with me forever".

"Telling someone over the phone and all you can say is 'I'm really sorry', whilst they're crying their heart out, is quite traumatising," she said. "Although you're saying how sorry you are, in the back of your mind, you're also thinking: 'I've got three other patients I've got to go and see, the infusions need drawing up, and meds need to be given and a nurse needs support'.

"The guilt is just too much."

Lead researcher Prof Neil Greenberg said the findings should be a "wake-up call" for NHS managers. He said: "The severity of symptoms we identified are highly likely to impair some ICU staff's ability to provide high-quality care as well as negatively impacting on their quality of life."

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Source: BBC News, 13 January 2021

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