A new confidential service offering vital wellbeing and psychological support to key workers across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) has been launched.
Keeping Well BLMK provides a safe space for staff, who may be struggling with the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic or other stressful or upsetting situations, to talk to trained professionals about their feelings and their wellbeing needs.
The service is available to anyone employed or sub-contracted by the NHS, as well as local authority workers, including social care and public health staff.
It is also open to anyone working in nursing homes and care homes, carers who visit people in their own homes, carers who are paid via personal health budgets, teachers and people working in emergency services, such as the police, ambulance service and fire brigade.
The team’s practitioners can support with common mental health conditions and put workers in contact with other organisations, services and resources who might be able to help them further.
Keeping Well BLMK is being run by Bedfordshire, Luton, and Milton Keynes (BLMK) Integrated Care System (ICS) and is being delivered by Central & North West London (CNWL) NHS Foundation Trust.
The ICS is the local partnership of NHS commissioners, two hospitals, community care, mental health and ambulance service providers, who are working in partnership with four local councils and other partners, including voluntary, faith, community, social enterprise and academic groups to improve health and care services for the local community.
Emily Carter, Workforce Transformation Project Manager at BLMK ICS, said: “The last 18 months have been tough for everybody, and this has been particularly true for the key workers we all rely on to keep us safe and healthy.
“By working as an integrated care system, we are able to jointly coordinate and run the services we offer to our local community, and by launching Keeping Well BLMK we can also support all of our key workers across the different organisations they work for.”
Dr Ryan Kemp, Director of Therapies, Central & North West London (CNWL) NHS Foundation Trust, said: “COVID-19 has brought considerable challenges and stresses to health and care professionals. Keeping Well has provided vital support to key workers experiencing stress, anxiety and exhaustion caused by working through the pandemic.”
Dr Rita Intili, the Clinical Lead for Keeping Well, Central & North West London (CNWL) NHS Foundation Trust, added: “To encourage vaccine uptake, we have also offered support to staff struggling with needle phobia to help them overcome any fears over the COVID-19 vaccine and will do the same for the winter flu jab in the months ahead.
“The past year has also been a difficult one for teachers, and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought unique challenges and stresses for teaching staff. Keeping Well is here to support them.”
Keeping Well has also been able to provide support to staff affected by the situation in Afghanistan, whether they are working with refugees arriving in the UK or if they have family and friends in Afghanistan and are finding the situation there upsetting and stressful.
Keeping Well BLMK was launched in 2021, and more than 150 staff have so far contacted the service for support. The team currently includes a clinical lead consultant clinical psychologist, five assistant psychologists, a counsellor and an occupational therapist. Two physiotherapists, a senior psychologist and a drug and alcohol worker will also soon join the team.
One key worker, who works for a local NHS trust, said: “I found out about the Keeping Well Service via wellbeing support at work. I got in touch because several of my family members in India had passed away due to COVID-19. I realised that I needed help to process the sheer number of deaths. Keeping Well was very helpful in helping me to cope at this time.”
Another member of staff, who works in social care, added: “I was struggling with anxiety, low mood and overthinking, and wanted to speak to a therapist. Through my employer I heard about Keeping Well.
“On the online platform I was very well supported by one of the assistant psychologists who was very attentive to my issues. He followed this up with some additional services that could help and further checked in with me two weeks later. He made me feel comfortable and motivated. Keeping Well was extremely helpful and I am very pleased with the service I received.”
Any key worker who would like to find out more about Keeping Well BLMK can visit www.keepingwellblmk.nhs.uk