England considers putting Covid patients in hotels, as study reveals deep trauma among ICU workers

A health worker outside a London hospital during the UK's first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

London (CNN)A large proportion of doctors and nurses have been traumatized by working in intensive care during the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, a new study reveals, with almost half reporting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or depression, and some feeling they would be better off dead.

The news came as UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said authorities are considering putting recovering Covid-19 patients into hotels as a "backup plan," such is the intense pressure being placed on hospitals by the latest surge in infections.
The UK marked its second deadliest day since the start of the pandemic on Tuesday, with 1,243 new coronavirus-related deaths. It also reported 45,533 new cases, bringing the total case number to 3,117,882.
    England entered its third national lockdown last week as it battles to cope with the spread of a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus. The UK government and senior health officials have warned that many hospitals are on the verge of being overwhelmed.
      At a news conference Monday, Hancock said the variant was "putting the NHS [National Health Service] under very significant pressure," with Covid-related hospital admissions up 22% on just the previous week.
      The study -- which has not yet been peer reviewed -- was published Wednesday by researchers at King's College London. It analyzed the responses to an anonymous online survey in June and July of more than 700 doctors and nurses working in intensive care units (ICUs) across six different hospitals.
      Although nearly 60% of respondents reported good well-being, the study found that almost half of ICU staff reported symptoms consistent with a probable diagnosis of PTSD, severe depression or anxiety, or problem drinking.
        Almost one in seven (13.4%) of ICU staff reported frequent thoughts of being better off dead, or of hurting themselves in the past two weeks.
        Around 45% of respondents met the threshold for probable clinical significance on at least one of these measures: severe depression (6.3%), PTSD (39.5%), severe anxiety (11.3%) or problem drinking (7.2%).
        Nursing staff were more likely to report higher levels of distress than doctors or other clinical staff, the researchers found. Almost half of those who completed the surveys were nurses and just over 40% were doctors. The researchers found that doctors consistently reported better health than nurses.
        The study, led by Neil Greenberg of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London, was published online in the journal Occupational Medicine.
        "Our results highlight the potential profound impact that Covid-19 has had on the mental health of frontline UK staff," the study says.
        "(The) probable PTSD rate we report was around nine times that found within the general population and more than double that found in recent combat veterans."
        Greenberg tweeted that the study "shows clearly that many ICU staff are understandably having a very tough time." He urged them not to feel stigmatized and to seek free help if needed through the NHS.
        The researchers note that ICU staff have experienced many stressors during the pandemic, including staff shortages, fears of contracting the virus and endangering their loved ones, concerns over a lack of personal protective equipment, and distress relating to the loss of patient lives despite their best efforts.

        Staff 'burnt out and exhausted'

        Psychotherapist and author Owen O'Kane, who previously worked as an NHS clinical lead for mental health and as a palliative care nurse, said he was not surprised by the study's findings although they were "quite shocking" to read.