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Our NHS Heroes Are Suffering From Burn Out

Last year as the impact of the Covid19 pandemic hit hard, the public and politicians took time to clap our health and social care workers. It’s important to recall as numbers of cases are on the rise again, what that was like for those on the front line of services.

Many of those workers have themselves become seriously ill from covid and some have tragically lost their lives to the virus.

It’s not just their physical health that has suffered but they are all mentally and emotionally exhausted.

The UK Parliament has published the  Health and Social Care committee’s report “Workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care

Commenting on the findings,  Dr Katherine Henderson, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

“The findings of the report may be shocking to some but will come as no surprise to health leaders and health care workers. The College has long raised concerns about workforce shortages, staff burnout and lack of funding, and has been calling for a workforce plan and a joined-up strategy to manage the exit from the pandemic.

“The health service is facing an overwhelmingly challenging time and the previous lack of workforce planning has let existing health and social care staff down. The workforce was short of staff before the pandemic. Existing staff, after 15 months of incredibly tough work when they lived on adrenaline and a lot of good will, are now facing a significant jump in demand and pressure.

“They are exhausted and burned out, physically and mentally, and many have had little, or no respite and are now back in the deep end facing a rise in intense pressures and hospital activity. And there is a growing risk that senior clinicians could retire early, or junior staff leave the profession, leaving a less experienced and smaller workforce behind.

“ The Health and Social Care committee provide welcome and detailed recommendations. If no action is taken, there will be, as the report says, ‘an extraordinarily dangerous risk to the future functioning of both services’.”

The management of Health and Social Care is devolved but the issues are the same for these services in Scotland.

The report states that:

Witnesses told the Committee of their worry about the “exhaustion of large groups of staff” and we heard about staff who were going above and beyond in the face of their own trauma, with an “unimaginable” impact on those who had to return to busy hospital wards after supporting people through the death of their loved ones over the phone.

For those working in social care, the committee heard first hand about the ‘heartbreak’ of people working in that sector, which has always been underfunded, at the numbers dying in care homes.These were the deaths of people they had provided with care and support. People they knew well.

In England, figures up to 11th June 2021, show that from the start of the pandemic in March 2020, 29,414 deaths have been registered to Covid in Care Homes. In Scotland a third of all deaths due to Covid have taken place in care homes – up to 13th of June 2021.

Deaths in Scotland due to covid NRS

These are shocking figures and everyone of them represents a person with family and friends being cared for in a place they thought was safe. For the staff delivering that care it has had a dreadful impact on their own mental health.

Many health and social care workers were also having to self isolate and were without the physical contact of friends and family when they most needed it.

Let us never forget what a debt we owe to our health and social care workers.

And these are the hands
That stop the leaks
Empty the pan
Wipe the pipes
Carry the can
Clamp the veins
Make the cast
Log the dose
And touch us last.

Michael Rosen

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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