The Duke of Cambridge addresses The Royal Foundation’s Emergency Services Mental Health Symposium

New mental health commitment to support emergency service workers

The Duke of Cambridge announces ‘Blue Light Together’

Emergency services across each of the home nations have today committed to a uniform approach to supporting the mental health of their emergency responder workforce.

In a UK first, The Chief Officers of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, National Fire Chiefs Council and Assocation of Ambulance Chief Executives have made a public pledge on behalf of their organisations at The Royal Foundation’s Emergency Services Mental Health Symposium held today (Thursday, 25 November)

In addition, HM Coastguard (as chair of UK Search and Rescue, UKSAR) has also signed the Commitment and will be working with UKSAR members to embed its standards to support the wellbeing of their staff and volunteers.

It forms part of the Blue Light Together package of mental health support announced today by The Duke of Cambridge, which has seen The Royal Foundation working together with emergency service leaders and partner charities to change the workplace culture on mental health and provide specialist support to emergency responders and their families.

Speaking at today’s Symposium, which brought together 200 leaders from across fire, ambulance, police, and search and rescue as well as the Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick and Mind CEO Paul Farmer, The Duke of Cambridge said: “This is an unprecedented agreement, and it sends a powerful message to all emergency responders that mental health is, and will remain, a firm priority for the UK’s emergency services.

“It means that, for the first time, a uniform set of standards for supporting the mental health of emergency responders will be adopted and integrated into their workplaces.

“This is a crucial step in ensuring that the staff and volunteers who work so tirelessly for our nation can be properly protected.”

The Mental Health at Work Commitment for The Emergency Services means that every emergency service organisation in the UK will:

  • Prioritise mental health in the workplace by developing and delivering a systematic programme of activity
  • Proactively ensure work design and organisational culture drive positive mental health outcomes
  • Promote an open culture around mental health
  • Increase organisational confidence and capability
  • Provide mental health tools and support
  • Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting

Built on a framework from the 2017 Thriving at Work employment review, co-authored by Mind CEO Paul Farmer, the Commitment will be integrated into each organisation’s existing wellbeing strategies. They are accompanied by a Wellbeing Impact Assessment to apply to new and existing policies under review and tailored guidance informed by mental health charities and emergency service experts in recognition of the unique challenges faced by their workforces.

The Commitment, signed by the Chief Officers on behalf of their members, includes a note welcoming future assessments by the respective independent oversight bodies to further improve mental health support.

This Commitment forms part of the Blue Light Together package of mental health support for the Emergency Services, announced today by The Duke of Cambridge. The Royal Foundation’s Blue Light Together programme of work has been supported by an Emergency Services Senior Leaders Board working in partnership to deliver on recommendations from a research project commissioned by The Royal Foundation and published by King’s College London and the Open University in 2020. Convened by The Duke of Cambridge, the Board has been working closely with charity partners over the past year to identify solutions and share best practice to ensure that emergency responders and their families can access the advice and support relevant to the unique challenges they face.

Supporting the Commitment, further measures announced today under the Blue Light Together include:

  • The ‘Blue Light Together’ resource website – Providing blue light workers, their friends, families and retirees with specialised information and advice tailored to their needs and experiences. The website includes specialised information and advice to help emergency responders with mental health, real-life stories and tips from colleagues working in the field, and guides for employers so that they can support their teams with their wellbeing. It has been produced in partnership with Mind, The Ambulance Staff Charity, Police Care UK and The Fire Fighters Charity and has been developed to build upon the work being carried out across the UK. The platform will complement the Lifelines Scotland website, which provides support to the emergency responder community across Scotland.
  • Blue Light Together Network of Emergency Services Therapists – Working in partnership with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), The Royal Foundation is funding the creation of a directory of therapists who have experience of specialising in addressing the complex mental health needs of emergency responders and will be made available to all those in need of support. Working alongside the BACP, the therapists will be offered ongoing peer support and continuing professional development to ensure they can provide the best possible care to emergency responders. This will be accessible via the Blue Light Together website.

This week also saw the launch of an anti-stigma campaign by leading mental health charity Mind, funded by a grant from The Royal Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund. The UK-wide campaign, broadcast at the symposium, aims to empower emergency responders to open up about their mental health and seek support, and includes signposts to Blue Light Together.

Daren Mochrie, Chair of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, said: “Our staff are our most valuable resource and by the nature of their role, their physical and mental health can be affected. Frontline clinicians, as well as those handling 999 calls, put aside their own personal concerns to respond to highly pressurised, emotional and physically challenging situations as they save lives and care for patients. With the support of this new Blue Light Together initiative, led by the Duke of Cambridge and the Royal Foundation, we hope that this will encourage more leaders and staff in UK ambulance services to speak up about their mental health.”

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “It’s great to see so many senior leaders across the emergency services taking proactive steps towards creating mentally healthy workplaces by engaging with The Mental Health at Work Commitment. Our latest research found that seven in ten Blue Light staff and volunteers reported a worsening of mental health since March 2020. Coronavirus has made emergency responders’ roles even more demanding, as they face making more difficult decisions, dealing with death, bereavement and concerns about becoming unwell. We’re pleased to be involved with this timely Symposium – as well as providing support through Mind’s Blue Light Programme.”

Karl Demian, Chief Executive of The Ambulance Staff Charity, said: “Our emergency responders are facing more challenges than ever before with Ambulance Services and staff operating under extreme pressure. This constant pressure is affecting their mental health and overall wellbeing and at TASC we are busier than ever. TASC is very proud to be working with the Royal Foundation, Mind, and our charity partners in Police, Fire and Search and Rescue to combat stigma and provide more support to help all emergency responders.”

Dr Hadyn Williams, Chief executive of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), said: “We recognise the immense pressures under which emergency responders work, often exposing them to trauma that can place considerable strain on their mental health and wellbeing. The Symposium signals a clear and significant statement of intent from the Royal Foundation to do all they can to support emergency responders. We feel privileged to support the Royal Foundation in this commitment and believe that our membership of highly qualified counsellors and psychotherapists is uniquely placed to assist emergency responders.”

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