Labour proposes 'Care for Carers' mental health package

Labour has proposed a four-stage ‘Care for Carers’ package offering mental health support for all NHS and social care staff in England, including private sector workers.

The package covers 3.1m NHS and social care staff in England, including contracted workers such as porters, cleaners and support staff.

The opposition party believes current support available is inadequate because it does not cover private sector staff doing NHS and social care work, and that there are long waiting lists and significant regional variations.

Labour's four proposals include a national hotline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and follow-up support with specialist assessments and referrals.

The other two proposed measures are intervention and treatment, including specialised PTSD support, and follow-up to external services, such as alcohol and addiction services.

The proposed package of measures would be staffed by paid professionals.

Labour is also calling for the government to appoint a new independent national wellbeing guardian to coordinate and oversee the support, and to hold the government and NHS employers to account.

The watchdog would work with unions, NHS Trusts, local authorities and care providers to ensure all staff know how to access the scheme and give them the confidence that their wellbeing was being championed and protected.

Labour said stress is estimated to account for over 30 per cent of NHS staff absence at a cost of up to £400m a year.

According the British Medical Association, 41 per cent of doctors suffer with depression, anxiety, stress and other mental health conditions relating to their work; and more than half of carers say they are emotionally exhausted.

“Coronavirus has exacerbated the existing crisis in mental health. Many NHS and social care staff have been scared of going to work, and they have lost patients and colleagues,” said Labour shadow mental health minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (pictured).

“Current support is not good enough, and without a tailored, fast-tracked service for staff who have faced death and despair every day for over three months, our frontline heroes will continue to be failed,” she added.

“We need to care for our carers. It is time for the Government to give back to those who have sacrificed so much to keep our loved ones safe. Unless our staff are protected, they cannot continue their vital work of keeping us all safe.”

Care England, the largest representative body for independent providers of adult social care, backed the plans for a national support service for care workers.

“Care workers are the front line, they need and deserve a centralised support service where they can glean emotional support,” said chief executive Martin Green.

“Covid-19 has put even more emotional pressures on adult social care workers and it is of paramount importance that we support them. Our staff are our biggest and best resource and need to be treated accordingly,” he added.