Patients affected by COVID-19 need to be urgently screened for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and receive regular check-ups for at least a year, according to the COVID Trauma Response Working Group.
This week, the group, which includes psychiatrists and psychologists, published evidence-based clinical guidelines designed to inform NHS planners and clinicians of the principles for addressing the mental health needs of people who have been critically ill with COVID-19 infection.
The recommendations derive from similar epidemics, mass casualty events and critical care settings. The group warns that without immediate national action, many COVID-19 patients and their families face the prospect of long-term mental health consequences.
In line with other infectious outbreaks, the experts estimate that rates of mental health problems in survivors of severe COVID-19 illness to be 30 per cent for PTSD, 15 per cent for depression and 15 per cent for anxiety disorders.
In launching the guidelines, the group states: “The mental health needs of survivors of severe COVID infection need to be taken as seriously as their physical health needs.”
- Actively monitor and provide timely treatment for patients with severe COVID-19 infection for mental health problems including PTSD.
- Set up a national 'screen and treat' service, managed through regional mental health screening programmes either within hospitals or in the community.
- Set up specialist psychological trauma services to facilitate the delivery of 'screen and treat' programmes.
- Severe COVID-19 patients to receive regular check-ups for at least a year.
At the moment there is no uniform approach to monitoring the mental health of severe COVID-19 patients in the UK. Most likely a patient would need to self-refer to a GP or to an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies service, the group noted.