The NHS has helped support thousands of people with mental health problems through the Covid pandemic with its scheme to help them back into employment.
The health service employed more than 4,000 people through its Long Term Plan over the past 12 months, in a range of roles including retail and digital marketing.
People with bipolar, major depression or who have a personality disorder are referred to their mental health team to the NHS Individual Placement and Support Scheme (IPS), where they are guided back into employment.
The scheme was rolled out in 2018, and is based on over 20 years of research and is recognised as the most effective way to support people with mental health problems gain and maintain work.
As well as helping people back into the working world, the has also helped 10,000 people prepare for employment by writing CVs, setting career goals and guiding them through job applications.
The Covid pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental wellbeing of people across the UK over the past 18 months, with many having lost employment during the time.
The NHS said it recognised stable employment played a huge role in maintain good mental health, including with reducing anxiety.
Its national mental health director, Claire Murdoch, said: “Despite the pandemic having an enormous impact on our lives, the NHS has been able to help more than 4,000 people with mental health problems into employment.
“While we know that NHS care and treatment are important, so too are the benefits that being in employment can bring – it can boost confidence and reduce anxiety [as stories show].
“Quite often a service user with a mental health condition, perhaps struggling with their symptoms and isolated at home, wants to work.
“Helping someone into a job they really like, giving them a reason to get up in the morning allows them to be able to manage their symptoms better.”
The NHS committed to helping tens of thousands of patients through the IPS scheme by 2023 including the likes of Stephen from Bradford who had been unemployed for 15 years.
Through the IPS scheme, the 48-year-old is now working as a shop assistant in a major retail store in a role that has made him “feel a lot more confident”.
The programme has been hailed by mental health charities, such as Mind, who say its encouraging to see the disability employment gap being tackled.
Chief Executive Paul Farmer said: “We know the disability employment gap is still too wide and that for many people with mental health problems, fulfilling work and staying well go hand in hand. It is therefore encouraging to see the NHS supporting so many people’s wellbeing through getting into jobs.
“It’s clear how much can be achieved when people with severe mental illnesses are connected with the right employers, especially if they are then helped to stay in work and thrive, with their mental health supported.
“We know that delivering this service was a casualty of the pandemic, so it’s important that more trusts re-introduce the individual Placement Support scheme as they recover, and the NHS reaches its targets for thousands more people to be helped through it.”