New programme helps front line health care workers at risk from PTSD and depression

  • University of Oxford
  • 24 Jul 2020

  • curated by Priscilla Lynch
  • UK Medical News
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Researchers from the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford have developed a new mental health treatment programme to provide front line health care workers with one-to-one support, including fast-track access to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression treatment.

The evidence-based programme, called SHAPE Recovery, builds on an outreach programme shown to reduce rates of PTSD and depression.

SHAPE Recovery is working with 3300 front line health care workers across England and has now been invited to work with 8000 London Ambulance employees and staff from associated partner organisations.

SHAPE allows users to access one-to-one confidential help, independent from their employers, on their phones. In addition, SHAPE facilitates fast access to gold-standard treatment for PTSD and depression should it be indicated.

Associate Professor Jennifer Wild, Programme Lead, said: "SHAPE is based on 15 years of research to examine what predicts PTSD and depression in frontline workers. We used the findings from these studies to create a highly effective support programme to prevent the development of PTSD and depression. SHAPE is the outcome of this work. It is evidence-based, affordable, and with ongoing evaluation could, if needed, be incorporated within NHS services within 12 to 24 months. The aim is to support staff to stay well, to recover if unwell, and to continue to be able to work, providing much-valued patient care."

Data collected from the programme will help researchers determine:

  • the effectiveness of this evidence-based, well-being support compared with no support for reducing symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety and sleep problems of front line staff;
  • whether early intervention for staff who continue to work during the pandemic leads to their recovery from mental ill health; and
  • potential cost savings of the programme to the NHS and society.

Higher than normal stress levels in front line health care workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic have been reported in a number of studies.