News in brief – NHS staff mental health study, new openings, PHU pilots course for assessing ill children

It’s time for our latest Leading Healthcare news in brief. Below, we round up recent headlines from the healthcare sector that have caught our eye, including funding updates, and new openings, studies, courses and more…

Large-scale KCL study on the mental health of NHS staff

A UK Research and Innovation-funded study by academics at King’s College London (KCL) will investigate how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the mental health of NHS staff.

According to KCL, the study will “collate data on a mass scale” and “evaluate national and local staff support schemes”. The health and wellbeing of staff will also be assessed regularly over 12 months, via questionnaires and interviews.

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, Professor of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London said: “NHS staff have been under tremendous pressure throughout the pandemic, and while we know from smaller studies that the psychological health of staff has suffered, we have yet to conduct a large-scale study across England. This information is vital to help us understand exactly how NHS staff have been affected, and how we can best support individuals with different needs.”

Manchester study warns of NHS staff ‘exodus’

In similar news, NHS staff also find themselves at the centre of a study by the University of Manchester.

New research by academics at the institution suggests that “there is a high risk that the emotional and psychological impact of the pandemic” on nurses and other healthcare professionals may lead to a staff “exodus”.

The study suggests that “supporting staff recovery from the physical and psychological impacts of working on the frontline should be prioritised” and that the situation should be taken into account for “years to come”.

Researchers found that staff have experienced ‘moral injury’ from not being able to deliver usual standards of care, as well as burnout, exhaustion, pressure to deliver, and abuse from members of the public.

PHU pilots new course on child illnesses

The ALERT™ team at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (PHU) has piloted a new course on “assessing and communicating illness in children”.

Intended for parents and guardians, the course – which is entitled ‘Paediatric Emergency Assessment Communication Handover’ (PEACH©) – aims to help adults recognise signs of deterioration.

The half-day session teaches basic assessment techniques, as well as how to communicate medical concerns clearly. Following the pilot, the team are now planning to roll-out the course for medical and non-medical participants at different venues.

Pippa Davies, ALERT™ Course Lead who piloted the course with her colleagues, said: “Children’s health is a topic many people are anxious about and the PEACH© Course gives participants a structured assessment to recognise when a child is unwell and how to articulate their symptoms with confidence. The course educates and reassures people that they are doing the best thing for the child.”

New ‘state-of-the-art’ hospital pharmacy in Hampshire

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT) has completed work on a new ‘state-of-the-art’, purpose-built pharmacy at Royal Hampshire County Hospital, Winchester.

The new addition, which received a £4 million investment, features a host of innovations, such as medicines tracking, temperature-controlled environments, and two robots for handling the safe storage, rotation, replacement ordering and dispensing of medications. 

Nichola Jones, Chief Pharmacist at Hampshire Hospitals, said: “We are incredibly excited to officially open the doors to our new pharmacy in Winchester…as well as the many benefits to our patients, we are delighted to also have improved training workspaces – enabling us to better support students and staff with face-to-face and digital learning.”

A virtual tour of the new pharmacy build is available online through YouTube.

New GP practice opens in Devon

A new GP practice has been opened in Devon to support the people of Crediton and surrounding areas.

Situated in Joseph Locke Way, the “modern, purpose-built facility” will enable Redlands Primary Care to offer the local community a wider range of services, as well as providing a greater focus on prevention and wellbeing.

The new L-shaped building has 16 multi-purpose clinical rooms and eight telephone and video consultation booths, as well as training facilities, rooms for patient groups, and additional office space and IT equipment. The clinic’s design also provides “better physical access for frail and elderly people”.

In addition, the site will have expanded general practice teams, including advanced nurse practitioners and paramedics, while the waiting room will contain “devices and literature” to support patients with new technology, online consultation forms and self-care.

Estimated to have cost £8 million, the project received “major NHS funding to improve facilities”, with 80 per cent coming from a long-term loan from the NHS England Estates and Technology Transformation Fund (ETTF).

Ian Biggs, Head of Primary Care for NHS England and NHS Improvement South West, said: “I am delighted residents from Crediton and the surrounding area can now benefit from this fantastic, state of the art health hub.

“The new building was made possible thanks to the national Estates and Technology Transformation Fund and will ensure general practice in the area is fit for the future.”

PhD programme to train clinicians in multimorbidity

Healthcare professionals in Scotland will be able to apply for training in multimorbidity, through a new Wellcome Trust-funded PhD programme.

Multimorbidity, which is described as being “the presence of two or more long-term health conditions” and as a “global public health problem of increasing prevalence” by the University of Glasgow, will be the subject of the new course, which will recruit PhD Fellows from a “range of clinical and health professional backgrounds”.

Led by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with the Universities of Dundee, Edinburgh and St Andrews, the ‘Multimorbidity PhD Programme for Health Professionals’ will a train a “new generation of healthcare professionals” on the topic.

Professor Frances Mair, Norie Miller Professor of General Practice at the University of Glasgow, who leads the new programme, said: “Our vision is to create a cohort of academic health professionals, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, clinical psychologists and allied health professionals, for whom interdisciplinary and integrated thinking is the norm, with the skills to bridge research gaps and overcome challenges posed by multimorbidity.”

Harrogate NHS awarded £110,000 for dementia care support

Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust (HDFT) has been awarded £110,000 by NHS Charities Together.

The grant is to be used to invest in dementia care support, as well as for developing outdoor spaces and indoor wellbeing projects.

The funding has already been used by HDFT to purchase tablets with video and audio functionality to create a ‘virtual visiting experience’ for patients and their families, while the tablets are now also set to be combined with new DVD players to provide improved inpatient entertainment options.

Some of the trust’s outdoor spaces have also been transformed to include new seating, garden pods, planting, wind chimes and an outdoor barista, which is also intended to benefit NHS staff. In addition, funds are expected to be used to improve staff rest areas with microwaves and coffee and tea making facilities.

Sammy Lambert, Business Development, Charity and Volunteer Manager at HDFT, said: “We would like to thank NHS Charities Together for their generosity. The funding we have been awarded is helping us to further improve the high level of care we are able to provide.

“Whilst it is wonderful that the funding will be of benefit for patients suffering from dementia, we are also pleased that it will have a positive impact on the wellbeing of our NHS colleagues who have worked tirelessly over the pandemic. Their wellbeing is vitally important and simple changes, such as developing outside spaces where they can relax for a moment, will ensure they feel well, healthy and happy at work.”