Mental health issues on the rise in Leicester hospital staff

By Courtney Stevens

The Number of NHS staff in Leicester hospitals who have reported absent due to depression and anxiety has increased since the start of the pandemic. 

Over the pandemic NHS staff have been under a lot of pressure to keep everyone safe and healthy which has led to an increase in depression, anxiety, burnout and other mental health issues. 

Becca McDonald, a third-year nursing student at De Montfort University, said her mental health has suffered during the pandemic: 

“I’ve found my social anxiety is a lot higher now and I’m finding it difficult to adapt back to normal.’ 

“I’ve noticed stress levels increasing drastically since the pandemic with lots of healthcare staff having to take time off due to their mental health or stress.”  

Figures show that between September 2018 and October 2019 there were 1,320 members of staff who reported absent due to mental health issues compared to 1,768 members of staff who reported absent between September 2020 and October 2021. 

Miss McDonald has noticed the impact the pandemic has had on NHS staff: 

“I try to avoid taking days off and I push myself to be productive, saying that, I have had to take one or two days off because of being completely exhausted and I know that I can’t practice safely if I’m not mentally equipped.’ 

“Lots of staff have left their jobs, either because of long covid making them too ill to work in healthcare anymore, or because of the issues that went on during the pandemic causing people to dislike their job and finding it better to leave.”  

Figures also show that there is a difference in the number of men reporting absent compared to the number of women.  

Between September 2018 and October 2019, there were 1,169 women and 151 men who reported absent compared to 1,549 women and 219 men who reported absent between September 2020 and October 2021. 

During the pandemic staff were offered extra support due to the rise of depression and anxiety that they were experiencing.  

40 well-being hubs that were opened to give all health and social care staff access to psychologists. 

Miss McDonald said there is support available to her through the university: 

“The well-being team are incredible, offering six-week blocks of counselling when required.  

“I am also aware of NHS staff being signposted to classes such as meditation or yoga to help those that may benefit from them.”  

Hidden disability badge has lost its meaning since the Covid-19 outbreak, say users

By Liv Slomka

Students and many others say the hidden disability sunflower lanyard and badge have lost their meaning since the sunflower lanyard was used as an exemption for masks during the Covid-19 outbreak. 

The lanyard and badge were used as a way to show the public that you have a hidden disability, one which isn’t an easy spot at first.

It was a discreet way of letting people know that you may need some extra support and help or time when doing everyday tasks. 

Joe May, a second-year media student from De Montfort University, said: “I used to wear the sunflower lanyard because I am partially deaf.

“Since it was so overused during Covid-19 for [people with] mask exemptions, I had to swap to wearing a badge at work that says deaf not stupid.

“It helps me avoid customers kicking off or calling me rude. I did prefer having a lanyard with a card that described my hidden disability, but it is no longer an option.” 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, sunflower lanyards were introduced to show that someone was exempt from wearing a mask in public. It was to show they had a health problem which prevented them from wearing one.  

Most of the people who used the lanyards and badges had asthma and other health/ breathing problems which would be impacted by the limitation of wearing masks. 

 Many people who had bad anxiety and suffered from panic attacks and hyperventilation also used the badge to be prepared for any situations which could induce these attacks, or they had panic attacks because of feeling claustrophobic. 

Masks also made people feel claustrophobic and many people did not believe Covid-19 was real because of conspiracy theories at the time. Many people instead ordered the lanyard or badge on Amazon to escape having to wear a mask.  

When wearing the lanyard, people did not have to prove why they were exempt. Which is why so many people had them, which in turn led to the lanyard/ badge losing its importance.  

Many believe it has now led to a negative impact on the hidden disability community. 

Beaumont Leys park and ride site delayed indefinitely

By Em Brooks

The planned Beaumont Leys Park and Ride scheme which was scheduled to be completed for summer this year has been delayed indefinitely due to a lack of interest.

The £1.4 million site was planned for launching in Summer 2022 with an aim to bring more people to the Beaumont Leys area. 

However, the pandemic saw a massive decline in users and numbers still have not recovered to their pre-lockdown statistics.

Andrew Gibbons, the Programme Manager for Buses at Leicester City Council, said: “The site is currently on hold pending a review of the business case for P&R post-Covid.

“The other three sites remain at 35 per cent of pre-covid use.”

Before these statistics were released, Deputy City Mayor Adam Clarke had described the site as “a great asset to the city.”

The original plan for the park and ride site was not revamping or changing the original bus service, just extending the routes to involve the site which would have worked the same as the other three sites currently in the Beaumont Leys area which offer free parking.

The site was planned to offer 300 spaces and proposed to see 30,000 passengers a year as well as 118,000 km of car travel saved per year through people using the site instead of driving to the shopping centre.

The Park and Ride scheme was a part of the city council’s climate emergency action plan which planned to reduce emissions through use of electric buses like those seen at St Margaret’s bus station as well as the completed plans to establish e-bike hiring stations around the city.

The proposed site

DMU students concerned for their health as Covid-19 cases start rising

By Liv Slomka

BUSY: the DMU campus filled by students after the summer break

Life has come back to the DMU campus but it has also raised concerns among students as Covid-19 cases are on the rise again. 

Students are worried for their health being back in university with full classes and no online lessons.

One student, Will Drury, said: “I was going out almost every day during freshers and every year I end up with the same freshers’ flu. Most of my friends have the freshers’ flu which could be Covid-19 but no-one is getting tested because testing isn’t free any more.”

Another student, Katie, who did not want to be fully named, said: “I know people that went to class once last week healthy and are now stuck in bed struggling; they didn’t even go out for freshers so it’s already spreading in classrooms.’’

Based on the data from the coronavirus database, between the 27th of September and the 3rd of October 2022, 123 people went to university hospitals of Leicester infected with coronavirus. This is an 11.8 per cent increase compared to the 7 days before. There were 130 patients in hospitals in Leicester with Covid-19 on the 5th of October 2022. 

Wearing face masks is optional but should help with slowing down the spread of Covid-19 and freshers’ flu during the flu season.

Active Oadby and Wigston has post-Covid vision to improve community wellbeing with physical activities 

By Lara Alsaid

The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on how important social life and exercise are for people´s physical and mental health, according to an activities group in Leicester. 

Active Oadby and Wigston is an organisation that aims to deliver programmes to get residents within the borough to improve their health and wellbeing. 

Ross Levy, Community Health and Improvement Officer for Active Oadby and Wigston, said: “A group walk for an hour around the park with the sun shining, reduces isolation and improves mental and physical wellbeing. It is fantastic to have that opportunity.” 

Group walks are one of their programmes

Seven district councils in Leicester have similar teams to Active Oadby and Wigston and share the same inspiration to increase activity for their residents.  

The organisation has a close partnership with the NHS (National Health Service) and operates a lot on the module of social prescribing, which is basically a prescription by medical practitioners to someone to do an activity. 

Mr Levy continued: “It is brilliant for people in our programme that have been referred because of low mood or bereavement etc.”  

The group walk is a growing concept within the organisation that has a powerful sense of community and commitment.  

Mr Levy added: “It is lovely how something as accessible as walking can have such a significant difference to people’s lives who participate.” 

After the Covid isolation, people have been excited to get back out and enjoy gentle exercise and have a chat with people from different walks of life. 

Mr Levy believes people have learned from Covid isolation and social exclusion that it is important to raise awareness of this organisation and for people to know their opportunities and what is available to them in their communities. 

Within the programme, participants have a close community with WhatsApp group chats where they inspire and cheer each other on.  

Most of Active Oadby and Wigston’s programmes are free of charge or incredibly low cost.  

Most activities have an age limit of 18 but they do more targeted activities for families, for example during February half term 2022 they organised family activity days in some of the social housing properties within the borough. 

There are a lot of opportunities to volunteer for students as well. The organisation is always looking for volunteers and urged students across De Montfort University (DMU) to contact Active Oadby and Wigston. 

For more information visit its website