Exhausted nurses ‘will need support to restart services’ after pandemic

RCN and NHS Confederation call for focus on staff well-being across health and social care workforce

Picture: Alamy

An ‘exhausted’ nursing profession will need support to restart normal services following COVID-19, the RCN said.

The warning comes as NHS leaders call for a review of burnout and wider well-being across the health and social care workforce.

Calls for staff well-being review after ‘unprecedented pressure’ of the pandemic

In a new report, the NHS Confederation – which represents acute, community, mental health and primary care providers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – said a review was necessary, ‘given the unprecedented pressure staff have been under’.

An analysis shared with the organisation also suggests that the NHS waiting list could reach 10 million by the end of the year, possibly higher if there is a second wave of COVID-19 before there is a treatment or vaccine.

This would be as a result of the combined effects of social distancing, treatment backlogs and staffing challenges.

RCN warns ‘the legacy of this pandemic is yet to dawn’

Layla McCay, a director at the NHS Confederation, said: 'The call for this review is aimed at both the government and NHS England.

'Across the board, our members have told us that staff are exhausted, mentally and physically, and there must be acknowledgement of that. They cannot be expected to move back to normal service without support.'

She added the purpose of the review would be to establish to what extent front-line staff are suffering from burnout, to assess levels of stress and mental health issues that have emerged because of the pandemic, and how this can be overcome.

View our COVID-19 resources centre

An RCN spokesperson said: ‘For burnt-out nursing staff on short-staffed wards, care homes or clinics, it will be a struggle to restart services.

‘The legacy of this pandemic is yet to dawn – the professionals are still focused on the here and now.

‘As services begin to return, the government must continue to invest in the workforce so that an exhausted profession – already facing 40,000 vacancies at the start of this pandemic – is properly supported.’

Health services face an uphill battle to recover after COVID-19  

The NHS Confederation report warns that the health service in England 'faces an uphill battle' as it continues to manage thousands of sick and recovering COVID-19 patients, while also trying to restart services such as those for cancer, stroke and heart disease.

It warned that services will operate with much reduced capacity – possibly about 60% of normal.

Some staff are so exhausted and traumatised from caring for COVID-19 patients that they will need support, it added.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said guidance had been issued to the NHS on restoring urgent services in a safe way.

‘We will continue to provide the resources, funding and support our health service needs.’

In other news

Register for free updates Register for free updates


We have made it easy for you to stay up to date with the latest developments in nursing, including relevant COVID-19 information.

Register with us for free – it takes less than a minute – and you'll receive news and updates straight to your inbox.

Register here today