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The growing list of nurses and other health and social care workers who have died from Covid-19 is rightly in the media spotlight.
Each day social media carry yet more distressing announcements and pictures of staff who almost certainly died as a direct result of doing their job.
This week, we added a new section to the Nursing Times website to keep the memory of these people alive and give others the opportunity to post their thoughts and reflections.
Compiling this list and looking at the stories we have written about the people on it was an emotional experience – one that journalists like me do not necessarily encounter in our working lives.
Although not all the deaths can be conclusively attributed to lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) we can say with a fair amount of confidence that a significant proportion can. It angers me in many settings staff are still not receiving adequate supplies, and this will almost certainly result in more deaths.
“Every death from Covid-19 is a tragedy, but people from BME backgrounds in general seem to be overrepresented in the mortality figures”
The list also reinforced to me how disproportionately people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are losing their lives, including many originally from the Philippines.
Every death from Covid-19 is a tragedy, but people from BME backgrounds in general seem to be overrepresented in the mortality figures, a trend now being recognised at national level.
The government last week announced that it will launch a formal review into the impact of coronavirus on people from BME backgrounds, including staff, although the timescale is not clear.
However, this inquiry will come too late to save lives. Last week, Nursing Times spoke to Carol Cooper, head of equality, diversity and human rights at Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust.
She noted that people from BME backgrounds were at a “greater risk” from coronavirus because these communities were more likely to have “a number of comorbidities”, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sickle cell, thalassaemia and lupus.
But reflecting the views of staff she had spoken to, Ms Cooper said BME nurses and healthcare assistants also felt they were being chosen to work on coronavirus wards more so than their white colleagues. If this is true, it is of significant concern and needs to be investigated urgently; it cannot wait for an as-yet unscheduled inquiry.
The pandemic was “shining a light on the inequities which are part of the system in which we exist”, Ms Cooper told Nursing Times.
Among the names on the memorial list is Donald Suelto, whose body was found at his flat in London around 10 days after he was sent home to self-isolate and five days after he last contacted his family.
On Monday, I was interviewed on BBC London News for a piece sparked by Mr Suelto’s case and more generally on how nurses were coping with the experience of the pandemic.
In the first part of the interview, which did not make the final cut, I highlighted that nurses were very much skilled professionals doing their job, but in challenging conditions and possibly in unfamiliar clinical settings.
But I did get the opportunity to highlight that the toll the pandemic was taking on the mental heath of nursing staff – both now and after the pandemic, must not be ignored. This is the focus of our new Nursing Times campaign Covid-19: Are You OK?
The last part of the BBC interview focused on what I thought the legacy of the pandemic would be for the nursing profession. I tried to look more at the positives and the fact that nursing was in the media spotlight and very much at the heart of the public’s response to the pandemic.
The country and especially the government must not forget, or be allowed to forget, the sacrifice being made – both in terms of lives and mental health and wellbeing – by those working in health and social care while the rest of us are in lockdown.
Recognition of that sacrifice, and of the skill, professionalism and courage required to do your job in unprecedented circumstances, must be a key legacy of this pandemic.