COVID-19: community nurses ‘verbally abused in the streets’

RCN director condemns reports of nurses being called ‘disease spreaders’ by members of the public

 Neil O’Connor
 Picture: Neil O’Connor 

Some community nurses have been called ‘disease spreaders’ amid the COVID-19 outbreak, a senior nurse leader has revealed.

In a tweet, RCN director of nursing, policy and practice Susan Masters said community nurses have told her they have been ‘heckled and verbally abused in the street’ as 'disease spreaders’ as they continue their work during the coronavirus pandemic. 

‘This is abhorrent behaviour, it must stop,’ Ms Masters added.

In a later tweet she also said: ‘Nurses are running towards the fire to provide the care the communities need.’

Discharging patients to free up beds

Ms Masters’ concerns follow an announcement that NHS England wants medically fit patients discharged into the community to free up more hospital beds.

On 17 March, a letter sent to primary and secondary care sector providers outlined the next steps the NHS will take in response to COVID-19.

The letter said: ‘Community health providers must take immediate full responsibility for urgent discharge of all eligible patients identified by acute providers on a discharge list.’

Discharging medically fit patients who have had a hospital stay of over 21 days could release up to 15,000 acute beds, the letter argues.

Additional funding available for community care

The government announced on 19 March that £2.9 billion in funding will be available for community healthcare as part of the response to the pandemic.

Of this, £1.3 billion will go towards the urgent discharge arrangements, while £1.6 billion will go to local authorities to help support the adult social care workforce and for services helping vulnerable people.

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