RCN responds to the Coronavirus ‘battle plan’

The plan includes bringing retired nurses back to work.

James McKay
3 March 2020
RCN website

Nursing staff will inevitably be affected by the virus.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has responded to the Governments plan to tackle Coronavirus.

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Controversially the plan includes bringing former nurses out of retirement to help support the already stretched workforce. However, mortality rates for this age group of workers show the retired workers would be at the greatest risk should they contract the virus.

In a statement Susan Masters, RCN Director of Nursing Policy and Practice, said:  “This is a challenging time for staff in health and care services – we welcome the fact that the Government’s new plan is UK-wide, and builds on previous experience of the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic.

“As the plan acknowledges, some nursing staff will inevitably be affected by the virus.  With the right safety measures and regulation, retired nurses could provide important support for staff currently working in the NHS and social care services.  But senior nurses already spend a great deal of time supervising and mentoring more junior colleagues and nursing students, so the issue will be whether they have the capacity to extend this to returning retired staff.

“Any legislation being considered will need to be carefully scrutinised to ensure that safety for patients and healthcare staff is the priority.

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“Discharging patients from hospital sooner so that they can be monitored at home could free up beds, but the monitoring will presumably be carried out by nurses in community teams, whose numbers have dropped significantly in recent years.

“There are already well-rehearsed plans in the UK in place to deal with infectious diseases like coronavirus, but the health and care system is challenged by the current high level of nursing vacancies.

Ms. Masters calls upon the public to support nurses by checking on any vulnerable neighbours or relatives.

Before adding; “Anyone concerned about the virus should call NHS 111 or check reputable sources online for advice rather than going in person to their GP surgery or A&E.”

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