Pharmacy teams given access to national mental health hotline for support during COVID-19 pandemic

The NHS mental health hotline and text message service will be staffed by thousands of trained volunteers to offer support for NHS workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.

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Pharmacy teams working across all settings in the NHS can now call an NHS mental health hotline for support in dealing with the pressures of COVID-19.

The hotline and text message service, launched by NHS England on 8 April 2020, will be staffed by thousands of trained volunteers from charities including Hospice UK, the Samaritans and Shout, who can offer support and advice for those working during the pandemic.

In a statement released on the day of the hotline’s launch, NHS England said that staff who use the service may be signposted to other services if needed.

These range from “practical and financial assistance through to specialist bereavement and psychological support”, the statement said.

The resource comes as pharmacists’ workloads have increased dramatically since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with some professionals describing the pressure “as Christmas and Easter combined with the amount of prescriptions that are being requested”.

Meanwhile, the Scottish government said on 7 April 2020 that pharmacy workloads “almost doubled” during March 2020.

Claire Anderson, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English Pharmacy Board, welcomed the hotline, and said in a statement on 8 April 2020 that pharmacy teams “are working flat out on the frontline to help patients during the pandemic, and will now be able to get high-quality mental health and wellbeing support”.

“A staggering 84% of pharmacists we surveyed [in 2019] told us they were at high risk of burnout, and that was long before coronavirus hit,” she said, adding that pharmacists’ wellbeing “is more crucial than ever to the continued delivery of essential services in the fight against COVID-19”.

“We know that prevention is better than cure so we will continue to fight to make sure the pressures on pharmacy teams are reduced,” she continued.

The RPS has been actively campaigning for pharmacists to have access to NHS-funded mental health and wellbeing services, including the NHS practitioner health programme, as part of a workforce wellbeing campaign run jointly with the charity Pharmacist Support.

Also commenting on the mental health hotline, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “As the pandemic continues, our people will face new and growing challenges on a daily basis, and it’s therefore more important than ever that they are able to access resources to help them manage their wellbeing, in a way that suits their needs.”

The hotline is open from 07:00 to 23:00 every day and the text service, which allows staff to text the volunteers, is available 24 hours per day. The hotline can be reached on 0300 131 7000 and the text service can be accessed by texting FRONTLINE to 85258.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, April 2020, Vol 304, No 7936;304(7936):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20207888

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