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The HSE is to establish the post of regional psychosocial lead as part of plans for a new national health sector psychosocial programme board (NHSPPB). The developments are the result of work undertaken by the national health sector psychosocial response steering group set up in response to the pandemic.
Details of the plans are contained in the recently published report, HSE Psychosocial Response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and also include the introduction of a psychosocial coordinator for each hospital group.
The framework defines psychosocial as “the full spectrum of psychological, emotional, relationship, behavioural and cognitive experiences of people”.
It continues: “A psychosocial approach demonstrates our ability to provide health and social care responses based on our capability to fully understand all the issues and threats to our health and wellbeing at this time of national emergency.”
According to the HSE, the task of the steering group was to “bring together different strands of existing services already engaged in responding to psychosocial aspects of Covid-19, to develop a national health sector psychosocial response plan and put in place an integrated strategic framework.”
The framework aims to protect and support the public and healthcare workers from the psychosocial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. It places particular emphasis on the mental health and wellbeing of healthcare workers, given their increased exposure to the virus, heavy workloads and greater levels of stress and anxiety.
“In order to support the sector, healthcare workers need to have access to a range of psychosocial and practical supports throughout the different phases of the pandemic. It is anticipated that demands for more intense supports by HSE staff will increase and this underlines the importance of ensuring sustainable and responsive psychosocial support structures into the future,” reads the report.
Although psychosocial supports were in place prior to Covid-19, the framework stresses the need to develop a consistent HSE approach to planning future responses.
The report warns that variations in regional responses need to be addressed. It says investment should be “broadened” along with the introduction of greater supports for healthcare workers in settings where the impact of Covid-19 has been particularly significant, such as nursing homes.
“Much has been learned from this pandemic, including the importance of the psychosocial impact, and planning for future pandemics must begin now to ensure sustainable structures are in place to meet any future needs that may arise.”