All of our lives have been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. My thoughts go out to all severely affected, including all key workers across health and social care. It is the job of the Psychological Professions Network to maximise the impact of the psychological professions, even at times like this. For this reason we went ahead with the second on line conversation of Psychological Professions into Action with a focus specifically on how we can best respond. There was a great response and we are analysing all of the ideas posted, which will influence the final Psychological Professions Vision for England. In the meantime I want to focus this message on three of the priorities for psychological professionals at this time which are being tackled nationally, all of which were also part of the Psychological Professions into Action conversation:
- We need to keep psychological services open and get ready for an increase in need. We believe it is very likely that psychological professionals will soon be working on a new front line in mental health services, as well as in supporting the psychological rehabilitation of those severely affected by Coronavirus. There are enormous challenges across our communities including loneliness, financial stress, bereavement and increased domestic violence. Many of these challenges will need whole community responses. However, over coming weeks and months we also expect increased rates of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions. We will need to get skilled with our new methods of delivery of interventions via telephone and videoconferencing and extend our skills in key clinical areas so that we are ready for this new front line. I am working nationally to enable the return of psychological professionals who have left the NHS to return to NHS practice across priority services so we can maximise our ability to respond.
- We need to ensure the right psychological rehabilitation for people recovering from severe COVID-19. Guidance is being produced by NHS England for when patients have had an ICU admission. We have asked for this to include the need for good psychological information to be provided to those discharged from hospital, access to psychologically-informed rehabilitation programmes, and clarity over how to get evidence-based psychological therapies if problems don't resolve naturally.
- We need to support health and care staff. There are huge demands on keyworkers including NHS staff. We have been supporting the national effort to ensure the right psychological support and mental health interventions are available to staff, at the right time. There is a national telephone helpline and text number for NHS staff affected by working with COVID. Click here to access the link. I have also been supporting, with others, the development of coping-focused virtual "staff common rooms", the first of these being hosted by psychological professionals. As time goes on, those staff who suffer ongoing mental health impacts from this period will need good access to evidence-based psychological interventions. IAPT services in particular will need to be geared up and ready for this.
We want to extend the reach of the PPNs into every NHS region at this time, so that these programmes of work can be supported by regional professional leaders and communities of practice. Gita Bhutani in the role of National PPN Development Lead is helping the remaining four regions to establish a PPN, with support from Alice Plummer, PPN SE Clinical Programme Manager, whose role is extending to advise the new PPNs on their set up. By September we aim to have new PPNs up and running in the North East and Yorkshire, Midlands, East of England and London, to complete the set.
Chair, PPN SE | National Lead of the Psychological Professions