Tommy’s calls for more scrutiny of Covid-19 mental health impact

Tommy’s has joined a host of groups urging the UK’s Covid-19 Inquiry to look in more depth at how the pandemic affected mental health.

Tommy’s has joined a host of groups urging the UK’s Covid-19 Inquiry to look in more depth at how the pandemic affected mental health.

Our call comes after the Inquiry’s Chair, Baroness Hallett, said it would not include adult mental health services in ‘Module 3’ - the part of the Inquiry looking into how Covid-19 affected UK healthcare systems.

Instead, it will consider only the impact on inpatient beds for children and young people with mental health needs.

An open letter to the Inquiry, co-signed by Tommy’s along with organisations including Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and The Association of Mental Health Providers, warns the decision risks failing millions of people with pre-existing mental health conditions.

We have previously called on the Inquiry to include the impact of the pandemic on antenatal and postnatal care as part of Module 3.

Today’s letter says: "Despite positive indications...that mental health would now be fully considered by the inquiry, we are deeply disappointed by this U-turn.

"The exceptionally narrow focus on the few inpatient beds that are provided to children and young people means serious questions will not be answered.

"These questions include: Why was there no public mental health plan? Why did those with pre-existing mental health conditions die at five times the rate of the general population? What help was given to our frontline staff? Why were the psychiatric hospitals emptied at the same time that community care was shut down?

"The inquiry was set up to examine the UK's response to and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and learn lessons for the future.

"It cannot do this without an in-depth examination of both the physical and mental health consequences of the pandemic. It must urgently reconsider its position."

Kate Davies, Research, Policy and Information Director for Tommy’s, said: 

“The Covid-19 pandemic caused unparalleled levels of anxiety and trauma for pregnant women and birthing people.

“Having to attend scan appointments alone meant some were without support when they heard shattering news about the loss of their baby. Others had to give birth without their partners.

“Parents of vulnerable babies in intensive care units faced extraordinarily stressful visiting restrictions and had to cope without the presence of family and friends.

“There was also widespread fear and concern about the impact of coronavirus on pregnant women and birthing people and their unborn babies.

“All of these experiences had significant and in some cases lasting effects on the wellbeing of those who lived through them.

“That's why we agree the UK Covid-19 Inquiry cannot be complete without looking in depth at the impact of the pandemic on mental health."

A spokesman for the inquiry said: "The chair, Baroness Hallett, has explained that the inquiry will cover the pandemic's impact on the mental health of the population throughout our investigations, including Module 3, as well as our UK-wide listening exercise, Every Story Matters.

"Public hearings for Module 3, investigating the impact of the pandemic on the UK's healthcare systems, will start in September 2024. They will include consideration of inpatient Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services - now referred to as Children and Young People's Mental Health Services. Other module hearings are scheduled to run until 2026."