Doctors set up helpline to offer emotional support to colleagues

British Medical Association appeals for volunteers to staff telephone line to help front line medics

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Doctors are signing up to offer emotional support to colleagues on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic.

The British Medical Association has appealed for volunteers to staff a "peer support" telephone line to help hospital staff through a "difficult few months".

The move comes after health workers were urged to be alert to the emotional toll that their response to the Covid-19 outbreak could have on them.

Doctors have warned that they will have to make life-or-death decisions about which patients should be admitted to intensive care units amid a shortage of beds and ventilators.

The BMA appealed for help from members who could staff help staff the line over the next six months, including those who may have time if they have to self-isolate with their households for a fortnight. Volunteers are likely to include doctors on maternity leave.

The trade body for doctors asked for members to send CVs and details of relevant experience, by tomorrow [MON] morning.

The appeal is intended to bolster an existing telephone line which offers "confidential peer support with an emotional focus."

The BMA states: "Our peer support doctors can provide a reflective space, working with you to gain insight into your problems. They can signpost, if appropriate, to other sources of support.

"Our doctors do not provide diagnoses or treatment. This is not an emergency service."

Rahuldeb Sarkar, a consultant physician in respiratory medicine and critical care in Kent, told Reuters that NHS trusts across the country were reviewing decision-making procedures drawn up, but never needed, during the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

The guidelines cover how to choose which patients would be put on a ventilator and for how long, in the event of shortages.

Dr Sarkar said: “It will be tough, and that’s why it’s important that you know, that two or more consultants will make the decisions.”