Sheffield mental health services prepare for “tsunami” of demand and call for more resources

Health leaders in Sheffield have warned of an increased demand on mental health services as a result of Covid-19 and called for more resources to help keep up support.

Thursday, 20th August 2020, 3:06 pm

The impact of Covid-19 on mental health in the city was discussed in a recent meeting of the healthier communities and adult social care scrutiny and policy development committee.

Heather Burn, head of mental health commissioning at Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group, said in the meeting: “We are predicting a big demand, we don’t know exactly how much. Nationally, we have been told 20 to 40 percent - we know that will be across all ages and groups and some groups will be most impacted. We need to think about staff and the impact of long term unemployment.

“The national suicide guru Professor Appleby said the risk might even present up to four years later as with the last financial crash with unemployment consequences and increase in suicide ideation. So we are thinking of this in the very long term and while we are doing what we can with the resources we’ve got, I think there has been fair challenge and that will continue in that we can build Nightingale hospitals for the physical impact but we haven’t seen a similar increase in the capacity and resources that are going to need to be made available for mental health.

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In a council report published ahead of the meeting, it was predicted emotional and mental health problems relating to Covid-19 in Sheffield will increase by 40 percent, which could equate to up to 1,800 extra referrals to adult services each month.

“We were already struggling with the demand, with Covid this is getting into a whole new territory.

“There is a lot we have done, there is a lot more we need to do but my goodness we have got a tsunami coming towards us and we are aware of that but the resources don’t seem to be nationally yet matching that.”

In a council report published ahead of the meeting, it was predicted emotional and mental health problems relating to Covid-19 in Sheffield will increase by 40 percent, which could equate to up to 1,800 extra referrals to adult services each month.

Authors of the report said: "It is now clear the psychological impact of Covid-19 will be as significant as the physical impact; and in many respects will last much longer."

They said during mid-April organisations reported a reduction in demand during lockdown but it is now increasing.

For example, Sheffield Mind reported a dramatic decrease in phone calls worried about mental health from 30 a week to just five or six but that this has since picked up and slightly exceeds pre-lockdown levels.

Meanwhile, Voluntary Action Sheffield, which coordinates a network of 37 community hubs, said one hub was now reporting an increase of 25 percent, from 500 to 625, people with mental health needs and that this was “similarly evident” in other hubs.

There has also been a doubling of referrals to some social prescribing services from general practitioners.

In the meeting Steve Thomas, local general practitioner and clinical director for mental health at Sheffield CCG, said a range of things including loneliness, unemployment, worklessness and bereavement had caused an increase and worsening of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and addictive behaviours.

He added the impact of Covid on mental health was also unequal and said: “Covid has been the great revealer and confirmer of inequalities that exist in our system.”

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