COVID-19: concerns over ICU nurses’ mental health as admissions rise

Three Nightingale Hospitals on standby, but no plans to support staff via mass redeployment

Three Nightingale Hospitals on standby again, but no plans to support staff via mass redeployment

NHS Nightingale Hospital North West, Manchester
NHS Nightingale Hospital North West, Manchester Picture: Alamy

Concerns for the mental health of nurses working in critical care have been highlighted as COVID-19 infections and hospital admissions rise.

British Association of Critical Care Nurses chair Nicki Credland said she was aware of cases of nurses who work in intensive care units (ICUs) being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and others being admitted for mental health treatment as a result of their experiences treating patients during the pandemic.

Nurses experiencing mental health issues during pandemic ‘can’t go through this again’

‘These are nurses who have never had mental health issues before and that work in a very stressful environment anyway so have developed strong coping mechanisms,’ she said.

Nicki Credland, chair of the British  Association of Critical Care Nurses
Nicki Credland, chair of the British
Association of Critical Care Nurses

‘They’re saying “we can’t bear the thought of going through this again”.’

Ms Credland made the comments following the announcement that the Nightingale Hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate had been put on standby in response to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in the north of England.

The Nightingale Hospitals are a series of facilities set up earlier this year in response to the pandemic, with the aim of helping the NHS respond to the crisis.

NHS cannot redeploy nursing staff during second wave

Ms Credland noted that in the COVID-19 first wave the NHS was able to manage by suspending normal services and redeploying staff, but that the government is reluctant to do this again.

‘Suspending normal NHS practice enabled us to train and deploy staff from other areas of the hospital to work in intensive care and support intensive care nurses,’ she said.

‘The difficulty now is because the government doesn’t want to suspend the NHS’s normal services, we can’t redeploy those staff,’ she said. ‘It doesn’t make any sense; you can’t have one member of staff needing to be in two places at the same time.’

Nurses should not be put in front-line positions outside their skill set

RCN director of nursing, policy and public affairs Susan Masters said that readying the Nightingale Hospitals will increase demands on staff, and they must be supported.

‘If nurses are to be deployed away from their usual jobs into front-line positions, such as ICU, they should not be put into roles that are outside their skills and competencies,’ she said

‘They must be given the right support and training for the role they’re being sent into.’

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