Health workforce ‘left exposed and vulnerable’ during pandemic

Posted: 19th May 2022

The UK government failed to protect, promote and support the healthcare workforce during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new British Medical Association (BMA) report

The report, which will form part of the BMA’s submission to the UK Covid-19 Public Inquiry, included anecdotal evidence from healthcare workers, who described shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), lack of testing capacity and low staffing levels which left them unprotected and at risk of exposure to Covid-19.

The review comprised a series of recommendations, which included future preparedness in case of another infection surge, sufficient staffing numbers and PPE stockpiles.

The BMA chair of council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: “The lessons from this review need to be learned and acted on now – given that new variants, new viruses or future surges of demand can happen swiftly.

“We must never see a repeat of doctors and healthcare workers left exposed and vulnerable, and we can never afford to see another disaster on this scale ever again.”

The report found that it was not only the physical health of staff left at risk, but also that the pandemic had a considerable impact on the metal health and emotional wellbeing of healthcare workers.

The director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, Miriam Deakin, said: “This pandemic has taken a significant toll on the mental and physical wellbeing of NHS and care workers and we have seen first-hand the devastating and disproportionate impact of the pandemic on our Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff.”

Such impacts on minority ethnic staff were highlighted multiple times in the BMA review, explaining how some healthcare staff often felt unable to speak out in situations where they may be at risk of exposure to Covid-19.

One anecdote in the report highlighted “the large number of Filipino nursing staff who died from Covid-19” because “they did not feel they could say no to working in hazardous situations because of a lack of understanding of their employment rights and fears of their immigration status”.

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Source:  Shutterstock

The UK government failed to protect, promote and support the healthcare workforce during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new British Medical Association (BMA) report

The report, which will form part of the BMA’s submission to the UK Covid-19 Public Inquiry, included anecdotal evidence from healthcare workers, who described shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), lack of testing capacity and low staffing levels which left them unprotected and at risk of exposure to Covid-19.

“These mistakes must never be repeated”

Pat Cullen

The review comprised a series of recommendations, which included future preparedness in case of another infection surge, sufficient staffing numbers and PPE stockpiles.

The BMA chair of council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: “The lessons from this review need to be learned and acted on now – given that new variants, new viruses or future surges of demand can happen swiftly.

“We must never see a repeat of doctors and healthcare workers left exposed and vulnerable, and we can never afford to see another disaster on this scale ever again.”

The report found that it was not only the physical health of staff left at risk, but also that the pandemic had a considerable impact on the metal health and emotional wellbeing of healthcare workers.

The director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, Miriam Deakin, said: “This pandemic has taken a significant toll on the mental and physical wellbeing of NHS and care workers and we have seen first-hand the devastating and disproportionate impact of the pandemic on our Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff.”

Such impacts on minority ethnic staff were highlighted multiple times in the BMA review, explaining how some healthcare staff often felt unable to speak out in situations where they may be at risk of exposure to Covid-19.

One anecdote in the report highlighted “the large number of Filipino nursing staff who died from Covid-19” because “they did not feel they could say no to working in hazardous situations because of a lack of understanding of their employment rights and fears of their immigration status”.

The RCN general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, said: “Nursing staff were failed by the UK Government time and time again during the pandemic – left without proper PPE, confusing guidance, inadequate testing and the consequences of bad decisions.

“Fundamental lessons must be learnt from the public inquiry. It will be critical, if we are to truly learn the lessons, for the inquiry to pin down causes and to say clearly where mistakes were made. These mistakes must never be repeated.”

 

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Pat Cullen

Amongst the recommendations, the report stressed that the BMA alongside others have called for the UK to implement safe staffing legislation, to combat the “critical retention problem” which were made worse by the pandemic.

It noted progress in Scotland and Wales but found England to be the furthest behind, with “no safe staffing legislation or desire by the government to introduce any”, according to the report.

A government spokesperson said: “We are incredibly grateful to NHS staff for their tireless work during the pandemic, who went above and beyond to protect the public.

“We are committed to learning lessons from the Covid pandemic and will respond openly and transparently to the inquiry and fully consider all recommendations made.”

Source: Nursing Times

 

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