Nursing Times has explored its impact on people with mental health issues and learning disabilities and the staff who care for them.
According to Royal College of Nursing mental health professional lead Catherine Gamble, there was already a lack of understanding about the “fragility” of people with mental health illnesses, which was highlighted by a shortfall of support for the sector during the Covid-19 crisis.
Although efforts had been made to protect people physically from the virus, the same attention was not given to those needing mental health care, Ms Gamble said.
Likewise, she said the needs of mental health nurses were not considered in the same way as colleagues in physical health services, with visits from high-profile leaders mostly focused on general hospitals, for example.
One of the biggest challenges for the sector was the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the lack of specific guidance tailored to mental health services.
The wearing PPE by staff was not only “extremely frightening” for some patients, it also posed safety risks during restraints.
“You expect to see it in intensive care, but you don’t expect to see it if you’re at a psychiatric hospital,” said Ms Gamble.