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As the operational pressure ricocheted up within the NHS this spring so did staff mental health absences. According to data collected by wellbeing insights company First Care, mental health absences in May and June this year were at least 20 per cent up on April, and at least 35 per cent up on February.

When comparing to the same data last year, absences were up by almost 40 per cent during the same period. Reading into this, it could suggest the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of staff is having a delayed impact, as staff around the country are juggling catching up with electives, emergency and covid admissions all at the same time.

The research also highlighted how staff take more time off – on average three times more – when off sick for a mental health reason than for a physical ailment.

Trusts will be mindful of this delayed impact of staff and efforts to provide support must be ramped up if the health service does not want to encounter serious staff shortages as the winter rolls in.

Safety culture in question

The Care Quality Commission’s inspection of Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust last month found that an emergency caesarean was taking place without the mother’s heart being monitored.

Care Quality Commission Inspectors, who had arrived unannounced, said that an “emergency c-section was being performed without the correct equipment available to monitor the mother”.

A letter said: “Specifically, the [electrocardiography] machine [which checks for abnormal heart rates] was not available, and this had not been checked after the previous procedure.”

The trust rectified the problem as soon as the inspectors stepped in immediately to “escalate concerns” about this safety breach.

The incident was highlighted in a letter from the watchdog, which was in the papers for the trust’s board meeting this month. An official investigation report has not yet been published.