Supporting the NHS during the COVID pandemic

The COVID pandemic has seen CancerCare adapt and extend services for people experiencing additional pressure and difficulties caused by the unprecedented situation.   

This included offering access to our team of professional counsellors, for free, to UHMBT staff in need of extra support due to the strains experienced by the NHS.

Last year we were contacted by a nurse at Furness General Hospital asking for help to cope with an ongoing life and work stress issue which was having a detrimental effect on her mental well-being and her attitude and performance at work.

The nurse, who has asked not to be named, has worked at FGH for over 30 years. She had already received help for problems sleeping but was still appearing anxious and unapproachable at work. 

With the arrival of COVID she was moved temporarily into another work area.  As the pandemic wore on, the enormous stress the NHS was under, constantly changing COVID rules along with increased workload and family issues, exacerbated her problems even further.  

Her pre-existing hearing difficulties were also made worse by increased background noise on the busy wards & the need for everyone to wear masks made it harder for her to make out what patients and colleagues were saying.

“All this was building up and causing me a lot of worry and worsened my sleep problems which left me tired and exacerbated the stress I was already feeling. I am normally a fairly quiet, tolerant person but I was getting very snappy and frustrated.  I was referred to the occupational health department and they gave me CancerCare’s number, so, I gave them a call and I was quickly referred for counselling.”

Telephone sessions, with counsellor Fiona MacDonald, began and she said they quickly began having a positive impact on her mental health and general well-being.

“At the time I was really struggling and it was fantastic being able to talk to someone who wasn’t from within my workplace. As a nurse you are expected to be strong for other people and Fiona made me realise how hard I was being on myself and that I was always prioritising others, whether it was patients or family, and that I need to think about and look after myself a lot more.’’

“She also helped me realise that my hearing problem was causing more issues than I realised and that I needed to seek more help with them,” she added

“I am in a much better place than I was and coping much better. Fiona has helped me think about things from a different angle and given me techniques which I can use quickly when I feel the need. I am now finding it easier to detach myself from work and trying not to be so hard on myself which has helped my home life no end.”

‘’I am also starting to be able to pick up cues from other staff members in relation to their workplace issues, which is hugely important in my role. Both at work and at home I am identifying the issues I can or may be able to change and letting go of issues that I don’t have the power to do anything about.”

The nurse continues to receive therapy from Fiona and CancerCare’s services are available for free for UHMBT staff throughout the COVID pandemic. People can self-refer themselves for support if they feel the need and sessions can be arranged at a suitable time to fit around shift patterns. For details call: 03330 150 628, email:, text: 07860 018 278 or visit 

CancerCare's pandemic services have been part-funded by the Cumbria Community Foundation's Pappagallino Flow Through Fund.

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