IT is not just the Covid-19 virus which has been damaging to health during the coronavirus pandemic.

The impact on mental health in Halton is being felt as well after more than 12 weeks of lockdown.

North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust runs mental health services in the area.

The trust explains how it has managed during the pandemic and the changes that have been brought in.

“Covid-19 may be a virus that affects us physically but the restrictions of lockdown, worries about the virus, and uncertainty around the future have undoubtedly had an impact on our mental health too.

“For those who were already living with a mental health condition before the pandemic, the situation has been even more challenging.

“That’s why it’s so important that mental health services are still there for those who need them throughout this difficult period.

“In Halton, community mental health services have continued to support people during the pandemic but have had to find new ways of working to protect the safety of staff and service users.

“Mental health practitioners at North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust now use a video consultation tool called Attend Anywhere to facilitate routine appointments with service users wherever possible.

“Just like a face-to-face appointment, patients check-in and enter an online waiting area for their appointment to begin.

“All that’s needed is an internet connection and a smartphone, tablet or computer with a camera, microphone and speakers.

“Most of the time appointments can be facilitated virtually, but depending on the individual needs, practitioners may need to see patients for a face-to-face appointment. In these cases staff will wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and practice social distancing to maintain both their own safety and the safety of our service users.

“Mental health inpatient services have also continued to operate throughout the pandemic.

“As with before the Covid-19 outbreak, the aim is to keep people out of hospital wherever possible but a small number of people will need inpatient care to support their recovery, and that is still the case during the pandemic.

“The safety of staff and patients is North West Boroughs Healthcare’s top priority and measures have been put in place to protect this.

“All inpatient staff are required to wear a surgical mask, gloves, goggles and an apron on the wards during their shifts.

“Unfortunately face-to-face visiting has been temporarily suspended on the wards until it is safe to reinstate this, in line with national requirements.

“In the meantime, the wards have used iPads to set up video calls so service users can stay connected with loved ones.”

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