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Confidential specialist support offered to Health Staff working through the pandemic

24th May 2021

Thrive Logo

Today Belfast Health and Social Care Trust is launching Thrive, a confidential specialist psychological support service tailored to meet the needs of staff who have worked in health and social care services during the pandemic.

Thrive has been commissioned by the Department of Health to ensure that staff who may benefit from specialist psychological support have access to it.

The pilot will initially be targeted at all staff who worked in Intensive Care/Nightingale any time from the beginning of the pandemic. This includes all clinical and non-clinical staff including staff from Patient and Client Support Services. Staff from outside Belfast Trust who were redeployed to work within Belfast Trust at any stage during the pandemic are also eligible to access the service.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “Covid-19 has placed an enormous strain on our health and social care staff who have played a vital role in dealing with the additional demands placed on them. We are all immensely grateful for their commitment and dedication throughout the pandemic.

“I am very pleased to see the launch of Thrive. It’s very important to provide opportunities for staff to have access to the information and support they need. I am determined to provide whatever support I can to help staff look after their mental health and wellbeing and provide a comprehensive response to the psychological impact of the coronavirus pandemic, both in the immediate and longer term.”

Staff will have the opportunity to self-refer to this service by completing a short questionnaire which they can send to a secure mailbox. The questionnaire will be reviewed by a clinician working in the Occupational Health team.  Contact will be made with the staff member to arrange a discussion with a psychological therapist at a mutually agreed time. Staff will be offered confidential and specialist psychological therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy delivered by experienced therapists. These sessions will be provided face to face or virtually depending on individual circumstances and client preference. All information will be collated and stored by Occupational Health in the strictest confidence and in line with GDPR regulations

This psychological support is available in addition to the existing Occupational Health services, including psychology services and other support services provided by Belfast Trust for all staff members.

Jacqui Kennedy, Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development at Belfast Trust said: “This has been a difficult and challenging year for many different reasons for all of us.  Staff in Health and Social Care have worked extremely hard during the pandemic and some may be feeling down, overwhelmed, exhausted, or distressed. Sometimes we feel like we should be able to cope but the additional stressors of the pandemic, affecting so many different aspects of our lives over a prolonged period of time, has been extremely challenging for everyone.”

“As well as additional challenges in work, the COVID pandemic has reduced access to our usual coping mechanisms including interactions with friends and family, hobbies and leisure activities and holidays. It is normal to experience intense emotions including anxiety, irritability and anger as well as feelings of guilt or grief. These feelings may or may not be accompanied by self-critical thoughts such as “I should be coping better” or “I’m letting people down because I’m feeling unable to cope,” she said.

“Belfast Trust wants to ensure all our staff have the help they need and Thrive is designed to offer bring an extra level of support. The pandemic has created unprecedented changes in our work and home lives and its normal to find this unsettling or difficult. While this is an entirely normal response to an abnormal situation, we want to reach out to staff and offer support should they feel they need it.” she concluded.

The Thrive service will be offered using virtual platforms or face to face if appropriate within a COVID secure setting.