New project to examine relationship between Covid-19, mental health of care workers and trade union responses

Health care

(13 October 2022)  Healthcare and nurses trade unions across Europe, represented by the European Public Service Union (EPSU), are very concerned about the short and long-term mental health effects of Covid-19. They want to avoid workers and hospitals coming under similar pressures in future pandemics. As an independent expert report for the European Commission argues, new pandemics are likely to emerge: ‘COVID-19 is the latest in a series of recent epidemics and pandemics, and will not be the last one.’ Moreover, they want to reduce the structurally high level of mental problems in the sector independent of the Covid-19 crisis.

It is vital to understand the mental health impact of Covid-19 and learn from the responses to the crisis. Trade unions, workers and hospitals need to know what measures and initiatives can be effective to mitigate these effects, in order to avoid putting hospitals and workers under similar pressure during future pandemics, as well as to address the more structural mental health problems in the sector. The project COMET (Covid-19 crisis, mental health of healthcare workers and trade union actions) will provide an ambitious, exhaustive examination of the responses by unions, workers and hospitals to the mental health impact of Covid-19.

The project will conduct a survey among EPSU’s health sector affiliates to provide an overview of the various responses by unions, workers and hospitals aimed to prevent, soften or treat mental health problems emerging during and after the Covid-19 crisis. This includes responses through collective bargaining, social dialogue and works councils or company unions. Next, the project will identify and analyse successful measures in the form of case study research, providing more in-depth information on factors influencing the success and sustainability of initiatives as well as the dimensions and scope of examples of good practice, in order to identify useful lessons.

COMET will use a targeted approach in disseminating the research findings and policy lessons to various groups, including healthcare trade unions, mental health professionals and policy makers. COMET will run a 2-year research and dissemination project coordinated by AIAS-HSI of the University of Amsterdam in close cooperation with EPSU and EPA (European Psychiatric Association). AIAS-HIS (The Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies and the Hugo Sinzheimer Institute) will be in charge of the research part (i.e. literature review, survey, case studies and reports of the findings). EPSU and EPA will provide expertise, support and contacts and will be in charge of the dissemination.

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