More than 11,000 people are likely to be left suffering mental health problems in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, according to health service estimates.
The figures include almost 90 children already identified as suffering post-traumatic stress disorder.
Doctors last night said the NHS response – with more than 1,300 people already seen by GPs and mental health services locally for health problems relating to the tragedy – is the biggest operation of its kind in Europe.
Dr John Green, chief psychologist of Central and North West London NHS Trust (CNWL said the unprecented scale of need had turned the organisation into “the largest trauma service in the UK”.
More than 1,300 people have been seen by CNWL and GPs after the fire, either for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) screening or Grenfell-related physical health concerns.
Health professionals in London estimate that around 11,000 people in the wider Grenfell area could experience difficulties of some description, while the fire may also trigger trauma among some of those watching the burning building on television.
Dr Green, clinical director at the Grenfell Tower NHS Mental Health Response, said: “I think this is the biggest programme there’s ever been in Europe, certainly in terms of mental health. There’s never been anything like it.
“It does strike us that this is much bigger push than there’s ever been anywhere else … so it is very novel, there are a lot of things that we’re doing that people have never done before.”
NHS staff have made almost 4,000 approaches in the north Kensington community, to identify those struggling to cope after the fire, thought to have killed around 80 people.
Dr Green said it could be years before the true mental health toll was revealed, with one person involved in the July 7 2005 bombings only recently seeking help, and some of those affected by the Ladbroke Grove rail crash in 1999 coming forward 10 years later.
The trust said nearly 90 children had been identified as in urgent care for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the Grenfell Tower fire. One third chose not to have treatment, with some wanting to move to a stable home first, or saying they do not feel ready for counselling.
More than 40 survivors of the tragedy have returned to flats which escaped the worst of the fire’s damage to salvage keepsakes, Dr Green said.
The psychologist said many of those who were able to return to collect photographs and items of sentimental value felt the visit had helped their recovery.
Each was able to take a friend or family member in support, and was accompanied by police officers, members of the ambulance service and psychologists.
Dr Green said: “Largely people were going there in order to collect things of sentimental value mostly, occasionally papers that they needed for their everyday life, but very often just small things that they wanted.
“And also a lot of people said to us that it gave them a sense of closure, to be able to go up there.
“The police were very good at making sure everybody was safe, and actually the residents, when they came down, they said they thought that by and large that had been very helpful for them.”
Residents had to wear protective equipment including a helmet, mask, boots and full body suit and were briefed by police on what they should expect.
“A few people had particular fears, one or two people were quite anxious about heights after the experience that they’d had, but I think the issue was going into the unknown,” he said.
“Quite honestly, a lot of them just wanted to see their flat again – some people said that it helped them to understand that it was finished, that they weren’t ever going to go back to the flat.
“It helped them in processing what happened.”
The Metropolitan Police said an area next to the tower has also been constructed to allow families to view the high-rise block in privacy.