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The Royal College of Nursing has laid out an eight-point plan of measures that it sees as essential in supporting nurses through the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic.
Timely access to funded psychological support and safe ways for nurses to report concerns about personal protective equipment (PPE) are among the college’s list of demands.
“The practical measures needed to fully support our health care staff are only just beginning”
To mark 100 days having passed since the declaration of a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the RCN is calling on all UK governments, relevant agencies and employers to “care for those who’ve been caring”.
In its report, titled Committing to the safe rebuilding of health and social care services, the RCN stressed the importance of regular risk assessments and testing for nurses and for actions to mitigate the increased risk faced by black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) staff.
Efforts must also be made to return student nurse education to normal as soon as possible, urged the college.
Ultimately, the RCN said nurse leaders must be given the “authority and resources to transform, reopen and rebuild services safely” now that the peak of the crisis has passed.
The eight priorities are:
- Regular risk assessments for staff, with all identified risks acted on;
- Proper consideration of increased risks faced by BAME and the underlying causes;
- “Clear and accountable mechanisms” for staff to raise concerns about PPE;
- Ensuring nurses can take breaks at work, have time off and are working reasonable hours;
- Commitment from employers for funded counselling and psychological support for all staff;
- Supporting nurses to return to their substantive roles and service areas “as soon as it is safe”;
- Resources to “future proof” infection control and critical care capabilities and capacity;
- “Clear pathway” for nursing students to return to normal study as soon as possible.
Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “Nursing staff and other care workers across the UK have shown remarkable leadership professionalism and commitment. But as we move past the peak of the epidemic, we must care for those who’ve been caring.
“It is vital that our governments and employers, including the NHS, take steps now to protect our health and social care services and staff, who have done such remarkable work at a time of crisis.
“The weekly clapping may have stopped, but the practical measures needed to fully support our health care staff are only just beginning.”
The intervention from the college comes as the UK coronavirus alert level is downgraded from four to three, meaning Covid-19 is now in “general circulation”. Previously transmission was considered to be “high or rising exponentially”.
The recommendation to lower the alert level was today approved by the chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In a joint statement, they said: “There has been a steady decrease in cases we have seen in all four nations, and this continues.
“It does not mean that the pandemic is over. The virus is still in general circulation, and localised outbreaks are likely to occur.
“We have made progress against the virus thanks to the efforts of the public and we need the public to continue to follow the guidelines carefully to ensure this progress continues.”