It’s time to care for the carers say healthcare organisations coalition

on 09 June 2021 Covid-19 maternity saftey

A broad coalition of heavyweight and influential health organisations have come together to call for better physical and emotional support and care for NHS staff.  The coalition includes the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), the Royal College of Nursing, the British Medical Association, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

This follows a report on NHS staff burnout published by the Health and Social Care Committee yesterday. This found that burnout is widespread in today’s NHS and an excessive workload due to understaffing is a key driver.

In the coalition statement issued today, the group say the physical and emotional wellbeing of health and care staff must be of equal priority to that of patients. ‘Health and care staff need to feel that their wellbeing and psychological health are valued by their employing organisations not solely during the height of extraordinary situations, such as the pandemic, but each and every day’ ’say the coalition. ‘This cannot be achieved by words alone; but must be achieved by actions.’

Birte Harlev-Lam is Executive Director for Professional Midwifery at the RCM and says that the scale of the challenges facing NHS staff cannot be ignored. “We must look after our carers so that they are emotionally and physically able to support the people they in turn care for. That is why over two years ago we started our Caring for You campaign, which has had a lot of success,” she said. “The past year has sapped the last bits of energy from staff in what was an already overburdened and understaffed NHS before the pandemic took hold. Their physical and emotional wells are now dry, and we must support them to replenish and recover and going forward make sure that we never reach this crisis situation again.”

The statement says that as it emerges from the pandemic the NHS is in its most fragile state ever and calls on governments and employers to respond to needs of staff now. ‘While staff are by far the biggest cost for the NHS, they are also the biggest asset; without dedicated staff and the wide range of skills they bring, the NHS simply would not exist,’ it says, and stresses that the NHS needs to catch-up with other organisations about caring for its staff.

“NHS staff have been working non-stop since the start of the pandemic while also having to deal with longstanding unresolved issues such as lack of staff,” said Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, a coalition member “It’s essential that we support frontline health and care staff through these difficult times so that they can keep providing the high-quality care our patients deserve,” said Dr James.

The issues of bullying, harassment and staff fears about speaking up when they are struggling are also tackled in the statement. It calls for a work culture where staff feel safe and encouraged to speak about their experiences. ‘This means we should take a systemic, preventative approach and not simply focus on treating people’s experiences as symptoms of personal stress. It also means actively identifying, and addressing, the wider causes of poor psychosocial wellbeing,’ argues the statement.

The critical role of employers in supporting staff wellbeing and the visions outlined by the coalition are bluntly spelt out. ‘We believe that organisations that commission services and employers both have crucial responsibilities’ it says.  

The full statement can be read at https://www.rcm.org.uk/media/5058/one-voice-statement-june-2021.pdf.

For information on the RCM’s Caring for You campaign, visit https://www.rcm.org.uk/caring-for-you-hub-home/.

See the RCM’s response to the Health and Social Care Committee report at https://www.rcm.org.uk/media-releases/2021/march/now-is-the-time-to-invest-seriously-in-the-nhs-says-the-rcm/.

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