As part of the Bristol City Centre Hospitals Appeal, Bristol & Weston Hospitals Charity (formerly Above & Beyond) has worked closely with University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) to develop and fund a long-term wellbeing plan, including psychological, physical and healthy lifestyle initiatives over and above what the NHS can offer.

The new wellbeing framework includes immediate, medium and long-term initiatives to benefit staff working at UHBW.

These include access to a dedicated staff support service from Psychological Health Services, staff counselling sessions, a wellbeing role and a health MOT screening nurse.

Dr Sadie Thomas-Unsworth, Lead Clinical Psychologist for Staff Support, spoke to Above & Beyond about COVID, the impact on staff and the new wellbeing scheme.

“Staff working directly with COVID patients at UHBW face a range of challenges.

They are experiencing the distress of supporting patients at end of life who can’t be with their families, the fear of catching COVID themselves and the exhaustion (both physical and emotional) of working in PPE for long periods of time. They know this will not end soon and that thought in itself is exhausting. On top of all this, they are having to manage evolving protocols around how to manage this new disease, frequently changing teams and taking on new and unfamiliar roles.

But the impact of COVID extends way past the clinical staff that work directly with COVID patients.

The element that unites NHS staff – from frontline clinicians through to administrative and housekeeping staff – is the desire to help.

For those not contributing directly there are other stressors – feeling like they are not doing enough, feeling anxious about coming on site and not wanting to let down colleagues. Finally, some staff have had to return to work after being critically ill themselves or having suffered the loss of loved ones and this of course can pose psychological and emotional challenges.

Over time, without the right support in place, some staff will be at risk of becoming increasingly emotionally and physically exhausted. The wellbeing scheme is an opportunity to really make a difference.

Our ethos is one of “caring for those that care” by embedding into the culture of our healthcare teams the practice of accessing psychological and emotional support on behalf of themselves and their teams.

The funding of an in-house psychological support service for staff will allow us to offer staff targeted support in their workplace, by someone who knows the specific challenges they face.

We can work flexibly according to local need, offering one-to-ones, team-based sessions and targeted teaching.

We know this works. Over the past ten weeks we have been able to re-deploy some of our clinical psychologists to offer this support. Our take up rates are very good and we have had excellent feedback, but we can’t sustain this without additional resource. Our staff are already beginning to be pulled back to their ‘day jobs’ and without additional funding for sessions we will have to reduce what we offer.

Your support of the Bristol City Centre Hospitals Appeal can make a real difference for staff who are giving so much in the care of others.”

The Bristol City Centre Hospitals Appeal has also funded a ‘wellbeing wagon’ to provide toiletries, food and water bottles for staff, and store cards to allow staff on the intensive care unit to make urgent purchases.