The study identified a lack of support for the basic needs of staff.
NHS staff working during the pandemic say they feel more like cannon-fodder than heroes, according to a new study.
The study, carried out by researchers from the Universities of Bath and Bristol, UWE Bristol and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, exposed the pressure that the pandemic is placing on the physical and mental health of NHS workers.
It highlighted a worrying lack of support for the basic needs of staff (e.g., insufficient places to rest, food to eat, and relentless shift patterns), and a significant lack of appropriate psychological support to help them decompress.
Despite working at “100% capacity, 100% of the time”, the frontline healthcare workers told researchers of their frustrations at those not following public health advice, and towards the Government for “failing in so many ways to support us.”
Dr. Jo Daniels, lead researcher and clinical psychologist at the University of Bath, explained: “Some of the stories frontline workers told us about for this research are truly devastating: last moments spent trying to set up an iPad in time for a young mother to say goodbye to her children; wrestling to intubate agitated patients; family members watching loved ones die remotely via video link.
“Added to this is the scale – the sheer number of frontline workers for whom these experiences have just become normalised – these results are truly shocking. We are seeing increasing levels of staff attrition, absenteeism, poor psychological health, and loss of life, yet frontline doctors are expected to just carry on.
“Despite the popular media narrative of healthcare workers being our COVID-19 heroes, many simply do not feel that way in terms of how they are being supported.”
Dr. Daniels explains that a “multipronged approach” is now essential to ensure that working conditions are conducive to effective practice; pathways to psychological support are coherent and well resourced; and that effective leadership does not disperse in high-pressure environments.