Recovering your workforce - Beyond COVID-19
07 June 2021
Even before the most recent wave, the impact of the pandemic on NHS staff was becoming clear. Results of the NHS staff survey (from October/November 2020) show a 4% rise in work-related stress. Further, half (50%) of staff working in areas dedicated to COVID-19 patients reported suffering from stress.
Case rates may have reduced significantly, but neither COVID-19 nor its impact on wider NHS services has gone away. Even without further setbacks on the return to normality, it will take several years to fully restore services and to address the backlogs of appointments, treatments and unmet need created by the pandemic. For the NHS and its staff, this is pressure as big, if not bigger, than the pandemic itself.
So how do we help staff recover physically and psychologically from the impact of the pandemic in the face of even more pressure to come? There are a litany of answers to the questions, so let’s start with the most important foundations of what needs to happen.
We should start by being honest with staff about what we are actually asking of them. NHS staff are incredibly dedicated and have demonstrated this yet again over the last year. And while the NHS will do everything it can to support staff welfare, there is a really difficult job ahead and the health needs of the population have to be met. Nobody in the NHS wants to see long waits for a GP appointment or for hospital treatment. So we are asking NHS staff to continue to work at least as hard as they have in the last year.
There must be a genuine, strong support offer that reflects the different circumstances that individual staff find themselves in, whether the physical impact of long COVID or stress on their psychological health. Everyone’s experience of, and response to, the last year is different. For many staff, recovery will mean returning to the jobs they trained and signed up for. These staff want to move on and get on with their role in addressing the pandemic’s impact on our population’s health. Others are more directly affected and should be provided with the time and support they need.
Finally, we need to recognise that the pandemic provides an opportunity to transform services for staff as well as patients. Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of NHS services, to reducing bureaucracy and the number of handoffs in NHS pathways can decrease the burden and stress on staff. It is also an opportunity to address the backlog of activity before greater harm is caused. It must not be missed.
You can read more about our approach to the recovery and restoration of planned care. Please get in touch if you'd like to discuss this further.