Long-COVID, a term that is all too apt as we plan for our pandemic winter

Nurses must get the safeguards they deserve as they prepare for a second wave of infections

The prospect of dealing with winter pressures exacerbated by coronavirus is daunting,
but huge strides in knowledge have already been made Picture: iStock

COVID-19 was never going to be all over and done with by Christmas, as once suggested by prime minister Boris Johnson.

Health and social care staff know this from first-hand.

Long-COVID and this long-haul pandemic

There is emerging evidence of the infection’s long-term effects, including extreme fatigue as well as respiratory, cardiovascular and mental health problems. The term ‘long-COVID’ has been coined for this phenomenon and it seems an all too poignant descriptor as we all try to come to terms with what is becoming a long-haul pandemic.

‘Ministers must seize the benefit of hindsight by showing they’ve learned lessons from the first surge’

With data for the potential toll of COVID-19 this autumn and winter being modelled, there’s talk of how much more we know now about the virus than we did early on in the pandemic. Greater understanding of effective treatment and care is one huge positive to keep hold of – and of which the global community of nurses and their multidisciplinary colleagues can surely feel proud.

What nurses need now from our political leaders

Ministers must seize the benefit of hindsight too – by showing they’ve learned lessons from the first surge. They could start by ensuring no repeat of the scandalous shortages of PPE (personal protective equipment) this winter.

They must listen to the pleas of the professionals, their unions and representative bodies. This means, for example, making sure staff can be tested for COVID-19 to prevent unnecessary self-isolation and the strain this puts on already-depleted staffing levels.

It is imperative the workforce – as well as vulnerable people – is prioritised for testing.

In remembrance: nursing staff who have died

The critical importance of this year’s flu vaccine

Nurses, in turn, should heed the words of chief nursing officer for England Ruth May, who is urging staff to have the flu jab and promote the vaccine among patients. This year, of all years, this message is critical.

Of course, it is hard to find reasons to be cheerful as we anticipate what winter might bring, but we can all pull together (metaphorically, of course) in our different roles.

At Nursing Standard, that means redoubling our work to inform and inspire you with the robust, evidence-based resources you need to feel supported in your practice through this next challenging phase.

Stay safe.