New Programme Helps Frontline Healthcare Workers

New Programme Helps Frontline Healthcare Workers

Researchers from the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford have developed a new mental health treatment programme to provide frontline healthcare workers with 1-to-1 support, including fast-track access to PTSD or depression treatment. This evidence-based programme, called SHAPE Recovery, builds on an outreach programme shown to reduce rates of PTSD and depression.

SHAPE Recovery is working with 3,300 frontline healthcare workers across England and has now been invited to work with 8,000 London Ambulance employees and staff from associated partner organisations.

SHAPE Recovery is an evidence-based programme for frontline healthcare workers, drawing on the researchers’ experience in co-developing the London Bombings Screen and Treat programme as well as the results of randomised control trials with frontline paramedics. 

The BBC recently reported on one Paramedic, Ollie Springett, who developed PTSD after a gentleman died in the back of his ambulance.

“I felt like I’d missed it. I hadn’t – it had just been a few moments – but in my mind I felt like I wasn’t good at my job. I felt like there were a few months of build-up to that one experience in the back of the ambulance.

During the pandemic, especially at the start, it felt quite scary – protocols were being changed very quickly from day to day with new working styles we had to implement each day.

You’re walking into people’s houses you didn’t feel very safe in. We in the ambulance service are used to walking into random people’s houses, but to walk in with this potentially life-threatening virus, it just hit home that it was scary.”

Ollie said the first few months after his trigger incident were the darkest days he has ever experienced.

I felt absolutely low to the floor, to the extent where I didn’t really see any ending in sight of a positive note. It was a very, very deep depression, very anxious about everything. It was genuinely quite terrifying at times for myself and for my girlfriend, my friends and family – it was a worrying time for everybody.

After being referred to SHAPE recovery, Ollie began a 10-week cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programme to work on “how my mind works, what happened, how I feel about it and how I’m going to be moving on from that”.

Following this treatment, Ollie is now back at work and said the therapy has given him tools to better cope with potentially triggering scenarios.

“If my brain starts to go, I need to put into place the plan to move away from those bad thoughts. When I had a trigger and I recognised I was dwelling on that trigger, I would start to think about golf – they talk about going to your happy place, and for me that worked and I could move away from those negative feelings that I had and start to think about something that’s more pleasurable.”

Dr Jennifer Wild runs the SHAPE Recovery programme, and said: “We have a recovery rate of about 90%. Staff who come into the programme with post-traumatic stress or depression, or often both of those difficulties, are recovering with six weeks of our wellbeing coaching.

They’re learning very active evidence-based tools to help break the link between triggers and past trauma, and tools that we have developed that are very effective for improving mood, so helping people recover from low mood and depression.

We’ve also been able to demonstrate we can move somebody’s trajectory – so if somebody has sub-threshold symptoms, so they don’t have a full-blown diagnosis, by learning these tools it also helps to prevent the future development of post-traumatic stress or depression.”

The programme has been funded by the COVID Research Response Fund, the Oxford Health BRC, plus funding from Brora who have donated £5000 from the sale of face masks.

Find out more about the SHAPE Recovery Programme here. 



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