Things suddenly feel bad again, though the warning signs have been there for a few weeks. Cases of coronoavirus are rising significantly and so is the mortality rate.
The prime minister and first ministers of the devolved governments have announced new restrictions issued a few threats to people who fail to comply. As things stand, I am yet to be convinced that any of this will successfully “circuit break” another peak, to coin the phrase used by Boris Johnson. I hope I am wrong.
Failure to reverse the growth in cases means health and social care, and their respective workforces, will increasingly find themselves under the cosh again, even before the winter sets in.
“I hope governments in all parts of the UK and their respective NHS leadership groups read these two reports”
Nursing and NHS leaders have rightly already called for action to ensure the resources are in place for nurses to navigate the looming crisis, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing.
But, as we know, it’s not just about those physical aspects we need to focus on, there is the negative impact on wellbeing and mental health that this could have on nursing and other staff.
It is bad enough to have been through the first peak and experienced the associated emotional fatigue but does that prepare you for a second wave – or is it worse to know what may lie ahead, especially when you are already exhausted? I am not sure.
I am pleased, therefore, to see two hard-hitting reports published today that both focus directly on nursing and these kinds of challenges that the profession currently faces.
One, called The Courage of Compassion, has been produced and issued by the King’s Fund think tank for the RCN Foundation.
It concluded Covid-19 had exacerbated issues including chronic excessive workload, inadequate working conditions, staff burnout and inequalities, particularly among minority ethnic groups.
The second, based on evidence heard by MPs, highlighted fears of an “emerging crisis” in nursing, with 40,000 NHS vacancies in England alone and 36% of the current workforce considering leaving in the next year.
The Commons’ Public Accounts Committee said in its report that the NHS itself acknowledged that there were worrying signs of stress and burnout among NHS staff since the Covid-19 outbreak.
It was vital, said the committee, that the NHS protected the mental health and wellbeing of nurses who had “contributed so much during the Covid-19 outbreak”.
I hope governments in all parts of the UK and their respective NHS leadership groups read these two reports and take heed of their recommendations.
Meanwhile, Nursing Times has this week published a fascinating study investigating similarities between nurses’ experiences during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19 and the current coronavirus pandemic.
The authors state “our study provides evidence of the high toll placed on the health and wellbeing of nurses in the early 20th century” and that it “highlights the need to pay close attention to the pressures faced by today’s nurses in their work with patients who have Covid-19”.
As you will remember, at the start of the pandemic, Nursing Times launched the Covid-19: Are You Ok? campaign to raise awareness of both short- and long-term wellbeing support for nurses during and beyond the coronavirus crisis. This feels as pertinent now as it did then.
The next phase of the campaign will be launched in the coming weeks to ensure nurses and other health professionals receive the support they need both during the pandemic and in its aftermath.
The wellbeing and mental health of our nursing workforce must be a major consideration as the country faces this next challenge from Covid-19. To ignore it risks an even worse crisis ahead.