Funding boost easing mental health burden for NHS staff

10 March 2021

Funding boost easing mental health burden for NHS staff
“There were days when I had never felt so tired. Days when I would go home and go to sleep, and feel that I didn’t want to get up in the morning and go back to work.”

The extraordinary pressures of the pandemic have challenged physiotherapist Riccardo Bario in ways he could never have imagined.

His role involves liaising with various teams to assess and treat patients before planning their discharge from hospital, but with mounting pressure on intensive care units he has found himself juggling a wide range of responsibilities.

Underpinning it all is the pressing need to free up beds by discharging patients as quickly and safely as possible.

“Because of the bed pressure it can make the days quite unpredictable and you need to have a flexible approach,” says Riccardo, who has been working at the Trust for six years.

“There is this constant uncertainty and the stress from this pressure can be really draining.”

"You feel completely exhausted at the end of the day because you're trying to hold together so many different things."

Riccardo Bario, Physiotherapist

Riccardo says it has felt at times as though he is working “a million different jobs”.

“You feel completely exhausted at the end of the day because you’re trying to hold together so many different things,” he said.

“It’s been very difficult to switch off from work and actually take some psychological rest.”

What mental health support is available for staff?


Riccardo’s experience has not been uncommon. Hundreds of other NHS staff in our hospitals have faced similar demands on their mental health and wellbeing over the last year.

The CONTACT service at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which offers a comprehensive range of staff support, has had to respond to an unprecedented surge in demand since the start of the pandemic. 

From April 2020 to January 2021, over 700 staff were referred for one-to-one counselling support – a 57% increase on the year before. During the same period more than 3,000 staff attended CONTACT’s emotional wellbeing groups.

Thanks to the generosity of our donors and fundraisers, Imperial Health Charity has funded a lightning-fast expansion of the CONTACT service, enabling hard-working staff to access professional support when they need it most.

Through our Covid-19 Relief Fund – and with generous support from NHS Charites Together - we’ve awarded over £450,000 since April 2020 to boost the number of counsellors and help the CONTACT team continue to deliver a rapid response service for those in the most difficult circumstances.

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'To look after other people you have to look after yourself'


For Riccardo, CONTACT has been a lifeline. He reached out for support in October 2020.

“I was doing pretty well in my job, I was functioning. But I felt I really needed that support later in the pandemic.

“To look after other people you have to be able to look after yourself and I needed that extra support to carry me through.”

Riccardo began working with a charity-funded counsellor, Julie, in the autumn, and the regular one-to-one sessions have helped him to feel better equipped to confront the challenges of the pandemic.

“After I started seeing Julie it really helped me a lot,” he added. “She’s been incredibly professional and welcoming, and made me feel that this was a safe place to be.

“The support has really helped me hold everything together and given me the awareness to recognise when too much is too much, when to step back and how to think in a situation where you’re feeling overwhelmed.”

Imperial Health Charity has awarded over £450,000 from its Covid-19 Relief Fund to provide extra mental health and wellbeing support for staff at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust during the pandemic. Read more about the support provided by the charity here.