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Mental health care during COVID-19

Mental health care during COVID-19

Mental health care during COVID-19

The global COVID-19 pandemic has torn up the rule book for nearly every sector and industry but mental health care during COVID-19 is crucially important and complex.

Guidance around the challenges faced in mental health care during COVID-19 must be flexible due to the unprecedented nature of the situation. A ‘one solution fits all’ approach is unlikely to be successful: mental health provisions vary across the country. Bed base, local resources, patient requirements and the way staff are configured can be different from location to location. Organisational teams such as Special Clinical Committees, tend to be in place to shape local management. Teams on the ground such as these will be able to respond to particular local issues as they happen.

Mental health care inpatient services

The ward community of patients and staff need to put infection control front and centre; the physical safety of everyone involved should be the whole community’s priority. Good communication and a sense of teamwork and community are key to ensuring this is successful.

Of course, on inpatient wards for patients with mental health care during COVID-19, there is an added element to consider. Gathering together for ward rounds, mealtimes and operating visiting hours will more than likely need to be adapted, reduced, or stopped altogether until it is safe to be in close proximity to others.

For patients with mental health care needs, the removal of all familiar routines and contact can have adverse effects, so it is worth trying to find the means to continue without breaching the 2m rule. The maintenance of morale for both mental health patients and staff alike is vital.

Putting in place the basic screening of visitors and infection control procedures for COVID-19, restricting the number of visitors, assisting patients with contact with loved ones via telephone, Skype and other means may be helpful measures.

For those working on an acute psychiatric intensive care ward, further detailed guidance has been issued.

Working with mental health carers

The impact on the mental health and wellbeing of the whole community has been well-documented. In reality, the pandemic has had a far-reaching effect from the young to the elderly, whether missing school, socialising and pursuing their academic future through to the isolated elderly, suffering from loneliness and anxiety. Those who have a caring role, whether professionally or for a family member, have been particularly at risk. This also encompasses health, social work and social care staff members and students in those professions.

The Royal College of Nursing has developed a series of free webinars providing guidance to mental health care during COVID-19 with a particular focus on caring, developed with those who have first-hand experience of caring for a family member.

Personal Protective Equipment

Using the correct personal protective equipment is key to preventing the spread of infection, protecting the wearer and those around them. All mental health teams working in the community or in outpatient services or specialist clinics, across all ages including children and young people and perinatal services, should check the recommended PPE list.

A separate set of guidelines is in place for those working in secondary care inpatient settings, including liaison mental health services, inpatient wards for adults, older acute, children and young people, specialist eating disorder and mother and baby units, PICU, ECT suites, prison and secure wards.

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