Building support for NHS staff and patients in mental health services

Dr Michael Holland, Medical Director at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, writes about the impact of COVID-19 on staff and services

By Matthew Farrand · April 17, 2020

Dr Michael Holland is Medical Director at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and works as a liaison psychiatrist at Guy’s Hospital. He was previously Deputy Medical Director and Chief Clinical Information Officer, leading the Trust’s implementation of revalidation.


With the epidemic of COVID-19 we know that the NHS is facing its greatest challenge yet. Whilst mental health services are facing a different set of challenges to our partners in critical care, we work together as one NHS. We are concerned that the lockdown will lead heightened numbers of people who need mental health support in our communities. We know that the effects of COVID-19 will have an impact both immediately but also long term for NHS mental health services, both for those using our services and for our staff.

Our levels of staffing are being impacted through sickness and self-isolation. Whilst we are able to continue running our services, all of these things have an impact on our staff and our patients. We always want to provide the best possible care and do our best, we want our staff to feel supported and cared for as well as our patients.

Together with our partners the Maudsley Charity we have launched an emergency fundraising campaign that is supporting NHS staff and patients across South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, covering our hospitals and community mental health services in Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark. We’re asking people to help support us by making a donation at

Our hospital inpatients are currently unable to receive visitors, this is to keep them safe and to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in our hospital wards. We’re grateful that the funds we have raised are providing funding to support patients to connect with their families by providing iPads to enable them to video call their families and loved ones.

Our children’s in-patient wards are also facing challenges, trying to keep children and young people feeling safe, secure and entertained whilst supporting their anxieties around the Coronavirus, with limited contact with family and the outside world. The Charity are supporting us to ensure children have access to technology and activities including books, games and art materials to keep them busy.

As I think about the large numbers of patients, we have living in our local communities I am mindful of the increased support they will need to stay well. It is likely we will see more cases of people suffering with anxiety and depression and those living with illnesses such as schizophrenia may struggle more than usual to cope at home. It is our job to support them as much as we can through this period of uncertainty.

Staff whose families are unwell or live a long way from work are currently being asked to stay in hotels to enable them to continue to work and look after our patients, we know that this is challenging for them. Help is being provided to ensure they have sufficient food and toiletries. The Charity is also working with a number of other organisations to facilitate donations of goods – we’ve been overwhelmed by support including a number of donations from the hotel and hospitality industry – these gestures help our staff to feel supported when they are facing such challenging times.

The Trust and the Maudsley Charity are working together to make a genuine difference to the lives of patients and staff as we face this difficult time, I am confident that our staff will rise to the challenge and our patients will get the help that they need. With your support we can do even more.