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Pharmacy teams can access NHS England COVID-19 wellbeing helpline

NHS England: Trained volunteers will offer psychological support over the phone or via text
NHS England: Trained volunteers will offer psychological support over the phone or via text

Pharmacy teams in England will be able to access a free mental health hotline during the pandemic, NHS England has announced.

Thousands of “specially trained volunteers” will offer NHS staff – including pharmacy teams – psychological support over the phone or via text from today (April 8), the commissioning body said.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has received confirmation from NHS England that pharmacy teams across England are eligible for this service, it confirmed.

NHS staff can contact a volunteer by calling a free number between 7am and 11pm every day or use the 24/7 free text service.

Over 1,500 volunteers will also signpost those who require additional help to other services, “ranging from practical and financial assistance through to specialist bereavement and psychological support,” NHS England said today.

The NHS has also partnered with a number of wellbeing apps, including Headspace, Unmind and Big Health, to offer NHS staff access to their services free of charge.

“Welcome and overdue”

Commenting on the new mental health hotline, Professor Claire Anderson, chair of the RPS in England, said it is “much welcomed and overdue news for pharmacy teams”.

“Pharmacists and their teams have risen to the challenge of COVID-19 and deserve the best support,” Professor Anderson said.

She added that the RPS “looks forward to working with the government, NHS and key stakeholders” on how to support pharmacists’ wellbeing in the longer term and resolve the underlying sector issues that “have caused such extensive mental health distress”.

Hemant Patel, pharmacist and member of the RPS English National Pharmacy Board said: “Today, we should celebrate a significant victory by the RPS to get NHS mental health support for all pharmacists via a hotline.

“In June 2018, I asked [the RPS to take action to obtain] support for [pharmacists'] mental health; we are now a step closer,” he added.

Danielle Hunt, CEO of the charity Pharmacist Support, welcomed the news that pharmacy teams in England will have access to the NHS hotline, which she said was “much needed support”.

“Our focus during this particularly challenging time is on providing proactive support for the profession that will be available to pharmacists, trainees and pharmacy students over the coming weeks,” she added.

Pharmacists can call the mental health hotline on 0300 131 7000 or text FRONTLINE to 85258.

C+D and Pharmacist Support gathered MPs, sector leaders and pharmacists at a parliamentary event in September last year, to raise awareness of the growing pressures on pharmacy teams.

Head to our website to find out more about what was discussed in parliament.

Do you welcome NHS England's announcement?

C D, Community pharmacist

I don't wish to be unkind, but this feels horribly like being seen to do the right thing whilst ignoring the real problems.

SP Ph, Community pharmacist

Absolute shame. On one hand the NHSE wants Pharmacies to stay open on Bank Holidays, which the staff could have used to recuperate. And on the other hand, they are offering Mental Health helpline. Where is the time to even get to the helpline??

We need more funding, so we can invest in managing the extra burden properly so that we don't get stressed and hence no need for the Helpline. 

Why is NHS diverting funds in wrong places?? First, the extra funding required (even if it is lower than the Bank Holiday payment) to make all Pharmacies stay open for just 3 hours, which was well covered by the Pharmacies already directed to stay open. Then, they are funding a Helpline, which I doubt would be of any use.

Watto 59, Community pharmacist

No but I would welcome more thought being given by NHS jobsworths requiring pharmacies to open for Bank Holidays when existing provision was more than adequate

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