A NURSE serving on the frontline fears mental health issues will continue to worsen, as figures reveal more than 1,300 staff have had at least one day off with stress, anxiety and other psychiatric illnesses in less than two years.

The figures - obtained by The Cumberland News under the Freedom of Information Act - show there were 1,328 staff at the North Cumbria Integrated Care (NCIC) NHS Foundation Trust who were off for at least one day between March 2019 and December last year.

“To be honest the figure doesn’t surprise me at all - I think it is only going to increase,” said one nurse, who has been working on the frontline supporting coronavirus patients at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary.

“The way things have been in the last year with the pandemic is just added stress on an already stressful job. People are understandably worried and anxious going into a work environment where we are putting ourselves at risk of catching a virus and also our families at risk if we end up bringing the virus home.”

Anna Stabler, NCIC chief nurse, said: “We understand and are very aware how difficult it has been for our staff and the pressures everyone is under. It is a situation none of us have found ourselves in before.”

She continued: “The challenges brought about by the pandemic affect everyone differently.

“We know it is a stressful time for staff who are looking after very unwell patients and worrying about their own loved ones and colleagues as well having to adapt to changing guidance on PPE and Covid-19.

“To help support our staff we have stepped up our existing health and wellbeing support to look after the wellbeing of trust colleagues. This includes a staff wellbeing network that is managed through our in house psychology team.

“The team are able to signpost staff to the most appropriate source of support for their needs.

Mrs Stabler added that staff can access further resources on the health and wellbeing pages on the trust’s internal website, including access to the Employee Assistance Programme that offers 24/7 help and support.

A number of online tools and courses are also available for staff, she said. They have also introduced free tea and coffee in restaurant areas for staff during breaks.

“We hugely appreciate the efforts of our staff and are so appreciative of their support,” she added.

Dr Ioannis Michalakis, associate medical director and consultant breast surgeon at the NCIC NHS Foundation Trust said: “I have to be honest, I have seen there are patients who are our staff members who have suffered with this kind of thing (psychiatric health).

“Unfortunately society is affected by this so it is something that affects our staff. Many staff are suffering and we are supporting them all and giving them the support they need to get over this.

“We need to support them to get over this pandemic. They are doing a great job.”