PPE Crisis linked to ptsd in nursing staff

Research led by Dr James Gilleen of the University of Roehampton has revealed that worries about insufficient personal protective equipment were linked to NHS staff who showed high levels of poor mental health symptoms

As most of us are aware the Covid-19 pandemic has adversely affected the mental health of many people, not least the frontline workers. Many healthcare workers in particular worked long hours under extreme pressure and some without the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

This study by Dr Jame Gilleen was undertaken to understand the psychological impact of the pandemic on British healthcare workers. In particular, the aim was the highlight which factors raised the risk or protected against poor mental health.

2,773 healthcare workers from the United Kingdom were studied and information about roles, workplaces and Covid-19 factors (such as workplace risk management) was gathered. This included scales of anxiety, PTSD, depress ion and stress. The survey took place between April 22nd and May 10th 2020.

Those who were involved were measured as high or low on each symptom scales. The changes in the wellbeing of respondents from before the pandemic  to during it were also analysed.

The Results

A large amount of those surveyed reported high levels of mental symptoms. Fixed factors (those that do not change as output is increased or decreased) included – 

  • Being female
  • Pre-existing mental health diagnoses
  • Experience of stressful events


A series of controllable factors (those that can be amended) made a significant impact on the results and they  included – 

  • PPE availability
  • Amount of work
  • Lack of training and communication about Covid-19


Those in positions of authority who had to make decisions about the treatment of patients were particularly at risk of high symptoms. Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority healthcare workers were at a high rise of PTSD and were more concerned than non- Black, Asian and Ethnic Minorities about the lack of PPE and Covid-19.

Across all of the participants and especially frontline workers, wellbeing was considerably worsened compared to before the pandemic. 

The Conclusions – 

Levels of poor mental wellbeing amongst UK healthcare workers were particularly high during the Covid-19 response. Factors such as the PPE provided and reducing the perception of preventable risk could reduce the effect of poor mental health on workers during this and future pandemics.

Source: Gilleen, J., Santaolalla, A., Valdearenas, L., Salice, C., & Fuste, M. (Accepted/In press). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of UK healthcare workers. BJPsych Open.

Rebecca Lambert
Author: Rebecca Lambert


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