The National Bereavement Partnership, formerly a helpline for parents who had lost children, has been re-opened to help people deal with the coronavirus.

Michaela Willis from Devon, who set up the free phone number, said she decided to restart it after being “bombarded” with calls from NHS key workers who were distressed by the deaths of their colleagues; there have been 82 deaths of frontline health and care workers.

The key workers who have lost their lives are set to be remembered across the UK with a minute’s silence at 11am on Tuesday 28 April.

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The NBP helpline was first set up after Ms Willis experienced the death of her son Daniel at Bristol Royal Infirmary in the early 1990s.

Now the helpline will be reopened to support any frontline staff or members of the public who are grieving during the coronavirus epidemic and want to talk about the anxiety and stress they are experiencing.

Ms Willis said: “Since the outbreak of the pandemic, I have been struck by the number of frontline healthcare workers who have been getting in touch to discuss their feelings of severe stress and anxiety.

“They are dealing with deaths and bereaved families on a daily basis, without having a spare moment to process the toll this takes on their own well-being. Fear of catching the virus is also acute as many have witnessed the deaths of healthcare colleagues,” she adds. “The emotional impact of this cannot be overstated.”

The NBP can offer support and emotional guidance through 40 trained callers, while working closely with NHS Trusts for ongoing support if requested. Where needed the helpline can also offer longer-term counselling.

The helpline is open from Tuesday (28 April) between 7am and 10pm every day as well as sharing relevant information and support on social media. It can be reached on 0800 448 0800.

Experts have already warned that those on the frontline such as doctors and nurses risk experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the Covid-19 response.

Dr Alison Pittard, dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine told The Independent that staff were already struggling “physically and mentally” and the added workload of coronavirus patients would likely cause “forms of PTSD”.

The NHS has set up a phone number for staff members which is open every day between 7am and 11pm and can be reached on 0300 131 7000 or by texting “FRONTLINE” to 85258.

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