Six years ago the prevalence of burnout in the predecessor of NHS Talking Therapies (the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Service) was reckoned to be as high as 67% (Westwood 2017). Writing in this month’s Psychologist, Kat Wheatley, a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner writes the following, anonymised to protect the service and the individuals involved:
“In early February 2022, we received a mass email from service leaders stating that we were not on track to meet the monthly target for triage assessments. They stated this was due to too many staff taking leave over half term and being on sick leave. The email went on to tell us we would be required to offer 1-2 additional triage assessments per week throughout the month to ensure the services’ targets were met, and to discuss any concerns with our Line Managers.
Later that day, an informal discussion with my PWP colleagues highlighted the email had provoked shared feelings of stress, frustration, and dread. One of my colleagues became tearful, sharing she was already too overwhelmed by the current workplans. Someone else stated they were going to ignore the request entirely and expressed anger towards managers for not acknowledging the pressure we were already under. Another simply said they were too drained to think about it today. Over the next few weeks, the stress and low morale was tangible, with more colleagues taking sickness leave throughout the month. And while we should have felt relieved when the month was up, instead we all shared a sense of defeat that this would happen all over again at Easter.”
It does not sound as if burnout has reduced in the past six years. There is no sign of an improvement anytime soon. The author opines that is possible to mitigate the deleterious effects of burnout by shifting ‘towards a culture of compassion within leadership’. This is at best an untested hypothesis. Nevertheless it could serve to keep hope alive amongst staff, to make going into work at least tolerable. But what would likely be the level of ‘mitigation’ achieved? Is it to be seriously suggested that it would have a major impact, or more realistically, at best a minor impact? Would one have seriously suggested that developing a ‘culture of compassion within the leadership’ of the Metropolitan Police would have prevented the debacle that we have seen since the murder of Stephen Lawrence, 30 years ago? More plausibly, NHS Talking Therapies has ‘Institutional’ problems that need to be addressed by a publicly funded independent review. This is not to say that individual leaders within NHS Talking Therapies cannot behave better, regarding staff as persons rather than individuals instrumental to a goal. Similar considerations would doubtless apply to the Confederation of British Industry.
Dr Mike Scott
Westwood, S., Morison, L., Allt, J. & Holmes, N. (2017). Predictors of emotional exhaustion, disengagement and burnout among improving access to psychological therapies (IAPT) practitioners. Journal of Mental Health, 26(2), 172-9.
One reply on “NHS Talking Therapies On The Brink?”
Interesting angle. Because they are being forced to treat people wrongly without the training. The people they treat wrong sometimes have undiagnosed burn out that they weren’t trained to diagnose. I know I did. When I was an auxiliary bank nurse I was doing 56 hours a week and the TA and using my holidays for TA camps and medcovers. When they were short of staff I’d never say no. I once did 13 nightshifts In a row off the back of a TA weekend, and watched a poor old woman with an infection in her legs who had dementia. I said she had an infection to staff on the ward. It was tracking up her leg, they had that woman on the liverpool pathway and they let her rot. I watched that poor lady rot from the outside in her skin going black. So I went in every night , opened the window and made her comfortable. Used mouth care , changed her pad , washed her . As they let her rot from the outside in. Then her son came. And I tried to comfort him and I asked her religion. He didn’t know. I put my arm on his shoulder and said I did what I could to make her comfortable. And he went n reported me saying I playfully put my arm around him. He took it out on me because he didn’t visit her and he felt guilt at his not knowing his own mothers religion. But I got the crap at work. I got no support. And it wasn’t true.
When we turned to MH staff for support all we got was it’s your behaviours. I clearly had burnout and PTSD oh and autism and likely adhd. But the misogynist male dr decided he’d “ try aggravate the patient to cause a psychosis” followed by his colleagues who decided he’d “ try to elicit a psychopathic response but the patient got angry so I had to close the session” yes I subject accessed my notes. This is how I was treated by UK MH services. I remember every second of how my services have treated me. I invite you all to lie detector test me.
The reason the staff are burned out in Well-being practicing is they are being ordered to treat mh patients like dirt breaching drs Hippocratic oath of doing no harm, and money other than pay should not be involved in care. One of the more human councillors was late to my appointment and I had went in the car park. And I said I had waited ages and she was getting out her car. And she looked like she was going to cry. And she said to my face “I’m not going to do what I was told to you, you’re a human being” that was my second session. Unfortunately I got a job away. And I never saw her again. The staff are being burned out because someone’s telling them to give us cold faced treatment. Particularly difficult patients. Being an undiagnosed wrongly diagnosed autistic with likely ADHD could be why I was a hard patient. We are predisposed to justice and I was being treated cruel. And was very angry which was ( meltdowns).conveniently labelled paranioa when was bullied in the community and grumbling hypomania ( ADHD and the rest) it took the woman from social services of 22 years to say I had PTSD likely CPTSD because the talking therapies services that destroyed and bulled and abused this burned out ex nhs worker.
I campaigned and challenged them on the phone last year and they admitted verbally they were under diagnosing females. I was denied pip for 14 years and ended up with iron deficiency . I had no help. My spine which was degenerative and prolapsed discs was denied scans for 8 years. And I was getting kicked out of practices and walking out of practices. And I ended up with OA living off cheap shit food and gambling until 2009 to deal with all the stress. This is what Talking therapy and the nhs I worked for did to me when I burned out and none of that’s in my notes even though I told them. That’s what the government is doing to the NHS. To privatise it. It’s pure evil. Until staff learn to say NO and defend their patients and refuse to work for the corrupted private sector patients. Perhaps quiet quit by being sick on private patient days would help. But I’m pretty sure some of those high up psychs is on the right of axis of evil established sides. The staff must be encouraged to say no. They burn out because they are harming patients and they aren’t accessing training and they are doing cold faced treatments and following sick orders from high. They destroyed me. First do no harm. Then they are supposed to admit their mistakes and fix them. I never accessed justice. How many other wrongly diagnosed burned out autistics with ptsd and adhd are being left to die in poverty and rage. I’m glad 1 dr Scott is doing the job. One of my abusive drs had your same name. He was young. His boss that professor was old. I’m owed justice off this profession. Instead it’s chose to torture me then lecture me on my behaviours. I think holding my bungalow to ransom on my behaviours of righteous rage . The authorities to fix this must give justice to us. Not destroy us further. Tell that to the supposed social safe guarding committee who is too scared to have the meeting so is hoping I commit suicide first by deliberately stressing me. I have waited 11 weeks now re safe guarding meeting and since 2021 re social services who think persecuting me with only questions on my hygeine because I was bullied as a kid for poverty and parental abuse in hygiene, is appropriate. Your proffession is killing patients. Isn’t that what T4 did. You and your colleagues in agreement can stop this and say NO. It’s your choice. Dont “just do your job”