60,000 NHS staff living with post-traumatic stress following pandemic

On 13th May 2022
Categories: 2022

An estimated 60,000 NHS workers could be living with post-traumatic stress as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, new research suggests.1 With nine in ten NHS staff (89%) saying it will take many years for them to recover from the pandemic1, we are inviting the public to support the NHS by joining its annual NHS Big Tea on Tuesday 5th July.

In our survey of over 1000 NHS workers, close to three quarters (73%) expressed concern about colleagues leaving the workforce due to poor mental health1. But while the pace of work and loss of unprecedented numbers of patients have taken a toll on staff, the public still feels overwhelming pride and affection for the health service – 60% say it is ‘the best thing about the UK’2, 62% agree NHS staff are undervalued by society, and 78% say NHS staff still need our help and support2.

Now, we are urging people to support staff mental health and wellbeing, as well as key community health projects, by hosting their own tea party fundraiser on the NHS’ 74th birthday this summer.

The nation’s biggest tea break, now entering its fifth year, all funds raised from the NHS Big Tea will contribute to key projects supporting staff mental health, the long-term recovery of the NHS, and community partnership programmes that prevent ill health and will take pressure off services in the future.

Neal Ashurst, 47, from Wigan, is one of many NHS workers who has experienced PTSD and anxiety, and has seen the benefit of support provided by NHS Charities Together. Ordinarily an Operating Department Practitioner in the Theatres department at Royal Bolton Hospital, during the pandemic Neal was one of many redeployed to the hospital’s Critical Care unit to support with Covid-19 patients.

Neal said: “The amount of death we witnessed left a lasting mark. It was immense pressure, and it changes you. My most traumatic experience was treating a patient in cardiac arrest – I had to put on layers of PPE when every second counted to keep him alive, and the patient tragically passed away. It tipped me over the edge, and soon I hit rock bottom. I couldn’t get dressed, I couldn’t sleep. I got to the point where I wasn’t mentally present, I couldn’t even remember the journey into work. But I didn’t want to be beaten by the job I love so much.”

“The counselling and wellbeing support I’ve received have been lifechanging, and I’m enjoying my role again.  But I’ve had so many colleagues tell me how they are struggling themselves, and I can’t emphasise how important it is for us to have that additional support. The difference fundraising can make really is enormous.”

To date we have funded more than 400 projects supporting NHS staff, including helplines, dedicated psychologists, and intensive therapy for those who have experienced trauma. These include Trauma Resilience Management (TRIM) programmes funded at sites around the UK – a proven way to improve resilience and prevent PTSD, involving training peers to spot the signs so they can intervene early – and a new way of using EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing). Funded at East Sussex Healthcare Trust, this uses hand taps and eye movements to process negative memories and help treat and prevent post-traumatic stress, and for the first time will be used in a group therapy setting.

Latest research indicates 11% of NHS staff have already personally seen the benefit of our funding, and we hope to significantly increase this figure3. Seven in ten staff (70%) said mental health support and/or counselling services for staff makes a big or moderate impact on the NHS3.

Carla Croft, 52, lives in West London and is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Barts Health NHS Trust. Using Barts Charity’s funding, the hospital established a Psychological Support Service for staff, where each site has been provided with a dedicated psychologist.

Carla says: “In our first year we’ve had over 6,500 points of contact with staff members, and sadly we know distress might become greater as time goes on. Increasing numbers of staff are coming forward saying, ‘I need support, I’m not okay’. Particularly as they are now looking at another cliff edge, dealing with waiting lists and short staffing alongside overcoming their traumatic experiences during the pandemic. Our support needs to be ongoing, as grief and loss come back in waves, and we want to be there for every staff member.”

Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive at NHS Charities Together, said: “The NHS can’t face every challenge alone, and as the national, independent charity caring for the NHS we are proud to have funded hundreds of incredible projects supporting staff, patients and communities alike. We’re at the start of a long journey to recovery and there is always more that can be done – but we can only do it together.

“Taking place on the NHS’ birthday on 5th July, we’re inviting everyone to join in with the nation’s biggest tea break and raise a mug – and vital funds – for the incredible people of the NHS. They have done so much for us over the last two years and continue to give their all in the most challenging circumstances. By getting behind the NHS Big Tea you can make an important difference to staff wellbeing, and help the health service go further for all of us.”

Last year 4,820 of us – and 150 NHS charities – signed up to host an NHS Big Tea, together raising £500,000 in the process. Working with the network of 238 NHS charities across the UK, NHS Charities Together take great care to ensure these funds go where they are needed most, getting public support right to the heart of where it’s most effective and can take pressure off local services.

Click below to sign up to host your own NHS Big Tea event and receive a fundraising support pack.


  1. YouGov online survey of 1008 NHS employees in the UK, carried out online between 12-17 August 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all NHS employees by occupational group.
    1. The estimated number of NHS staff living with PTS in the UK has been calculated by NHS Charities Together. In the survey of 1,008 NHS staff, 5% reported experiencing post-traumatic stress as a result of the pandemic – although we expect in reality the figure could be much higher. There are 1.2 million NHS staff in the UK
  2. YouGov online survey of 2132 UK adults, carried out online between 13-14 January 2022. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.
  3. YouGov online survey of 1016 NHS employees in the UK, carried out online between 10-12 January 2022. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The figures have been weighted and are representative of NHS employees by occupational group.

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