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Covid-19 - Latest news for our members

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The Covid-19 pandemic is the greatest single challenge ever faced by the NHS.

The situation is unprecedented and rapidly changing. It is creating massive pressures and demands on health and care workers. This regularly updated page provides advice and information to our members as managers and employees.

This page was last updated on Thursday 7 May.

 

Role of managers   

Creating capacity for treating COVID-19

Managers are members of the health and care team. Our members have been working flat out to create capacity to treat COVID-19 patients in hospital and in the community. Emergency planning and service modelling for the pandemic is being done at the same time as keeping other urgent healthcare going.

Operational managers and HR managers are working on complex redeployment plans and preparing staff for temporary new duties. Policy leads are creating plans to support staff and the wider population with the psychological impact of Covid-19. Finance and procurement managers are working hard to fund and buy equipment and services.

Supporting staff

Line managers are supporting all staff with their health and well-being, especially those working in areas of high viral load and those with underlying health conditions. This is sensitive work as staff are understandably anxious – and some very frightened - for themselves, their families and their patients.

Solving problems

Managers are alerting the wider system to problems with personal protection equipment, testing and staff shortages and then working on practical, swift solutions. In emergency situations managers traditionally step into the gaps that open in the system. Here it is important to remember that many NHS managers are clinically qualified. 

Planning the recovery

Managers are starting to plan for the recovery from the pandemic. Sadly, much non urgent healthcare has been cancelled and when the crisis is over the NHS will need to get back on track for hundreds of thousands of people. The impact on many staff as well as the wider population will be long-lasting and support will be needed for years to come.

Managers and other NHS staff are worried that people are not seeking help with urgent and serious conditions when they should. The NHS remains open for such care 

Health and wellbeing

Self-isolation and social distancing

Government advice to the public on isolation and family quarantine – and social distancing at work - applies to health and care staff. You should not be put at higher risk than patients or the general public. That includes the advice for people in at risk groups and for pregnant women.

If it’s absolutely necessary that you travel to work, the government guidelines advise people to stay two metres apart from others. Your employer should put steps in place to assist staff in keeping 2 metres apart from each other where possible.

Working from home

Employers should expect staff who can work from home to do so and provide them with the right equipment. Where members must attend work a risk assessment should be conducted with relevant PPE provided and social distancing measures adopted. Members who have concerns should contact their MiP national officer.

Pregnant health workers

Read the latest guidance from the relevant colleges on coronavirus and pregnancy, including advice for pregnant health workers.

If you are pregnant and also have a heart condition, you should have received a letter from the government about “shielding”,  which is a way of protecting very vulnerable people from the virus. The government guidance for people who fall into the shielding category can be read here.

NHS guidance on health and safety and wellbeing

 If you have queries or problems locally it may be useful to refer to this updated detailed advice on health safety and well-being for workforce leaders produced with input from NHS unions.

Psychological and other support for NHS staff

NHS England and NHS Improvement is co-ordinating a range of services for all NHS staff in England, including a confidential helpline run by the Samaritans. You can find information on the latest offer here.

So far over 80,000 free well-being apps have been downloaded by NHS staff. Staff side including MiP are meeting policy leads regularly on national support for NHS staff. This support is in addition to services provided by local employers.

Offers and discounts for NHS staff

NHS England has published an approved list of companies offering support to NHS staff during the pandemic, including a range of discounted products and services, and details of dedicated supermarket shopping times.

Key current issues

Impact of Covid-19 on BME and other groups

The government has commissioned Public Health England (PHE) to review the impact of COVID-19 on BME people and other groups following signs of disproportionate impact. Separately, NHS England and NHS Improvement are also creating an urgent plan to address equality and diversity issues arising from the pandemic and the response to it. With other unions, MiP is seeking clarification about the scope and detail of the review and the action plan. It is vital that analysis leads to urgent action now.  

Personal Protective Equipment

Members report that earlier problems with supply of PPE have eased in many areas. However, there remain problems with the ‘push model’ adopted by the NHS nationally and managers are very worried about access to supplies in social care. NHS England and NHS Improvement has a helpline for employers and operational managers to raise supply issues.  With other unions MiP this week urged the government to share information regularly about the huge effort underway to secure PPE for the UK from across the world and to tell it ‘as it is’. We hope communications will now improve.

Your employer must carry out a full risk assessment and provide you with specialist training and the relevant PPE (gowns/aprons, masks, gloves, etc). The type of equipment you get will depend on the likelihood and risks of you getting the Covid-19 disease. MiP stresses the importance of following normal risk assessment and health and safety procedures and urges clinical managers and infection control leads to talk to staff and union health and safety reps before shortages occur.

Public Health England wrote to NHS Trusts in England on 10 April confirming that the Health and Safety Executive had also approved the use of disposable coveralls as an equivalent alternative to non-surgical disposal gowns for the same indications as published in the specific guidance.  Further guidance was issued to address urgent shortage situations.  The Health and Care Professions Council also produced guidance on applying ethical standards to infection control

As a minimum, your employer should provide a fluid-resistant surgical mask, gloves, apron and eye protection if you are working within one metre of patient or if there’s any risk of splashing into the eyes. Government guidance on appropriate PPE in a range of health and care settings can be read here

Dr Henrietta Hughes, the National Guardian for the NHS, has issued a joint statement with the CQC Chief Inspectors to encourage staff to speak out about issues of safety during Covid-19 and urging leaders to listen and respond to those concerns.

The Social Partnership Forum, which brings together NHS trade unions, NHS Employers, HEE, NHS England and NHS Improvement, and the Department of Health and Social Care, has released a joint statement of key messages in relation to PPE.

Testing

As of April 24, the government has announced that all essential workers in England, and members of their households who are showing symptoms of coronavirus will now be able to get tested. Essential workers includes health and care staff, and the test will be able to booked through an online system. You can register for a coronavirus test here. You will then receive a text or email the same day inviting you to either book an appointment for testing, or receive a home testing kit. You can read more about how the testing scheme will work on the government site.

As it is now becoming more widely available, staff testing will need to be managed carefully and sensitively by managers. Policy leads will brief national staff side about testing next week. A test for immunity is also in rapid development so that it can be used with healthcare staff when ready.

School and nursery closures

Key workers can access childcare provisions so that they can remain at work. Eligibility will be as wide as possible for health and social care staff. For the latest government announcements on partial school announcements see:

Terms and conditions

Self isolation

Healthcare staff will receive full pay for any period in which they are required to self-isolate. Self-isolation will not count towards sickness absence triggers.

NHS guidance on terms and conditions

 Guidance on NHS staff pay, terms and conditions during the pandemic is available on the NHS Employers website for staff in England. In addition, some trusts are talking to their local staff sides about temporary overtime schemes for staff in bands 8 and 9 and on boards.

Further discussions

Staff side in England is continuing to talk to national employers and the government about issues such as death in service, overtime for bands 8 and 9 and other senior staff, and terms for staff shielding themselves or caring for a person at higher risk.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

For NHS staff in Scotland, general pay and conditions advice is available, as well as advice on overtime payments for staff in bands 8 and 9 and senior manager grades. Northern Ireland has also suspended Agenda for Change provisions on overtime payments to bands 8A and above from 1 April until at least 30 June 2020.  Similar arrangements are expected in Wales.

Pensions for retired returners

 As a general rule – if you return to NHS employment while in receipt of your NHS pension – this will not be affected if you are already over your scheme’s Normal Pension Age at the point of returning. Or if you have incurred a reduction to your pension for drawing it early.

In addition, the government’s Coronavirus Bill contains measures which will allow recently retired healthcare professionals to return to work, or increase their hours, without any negative impact on their pension for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic. There is more information on this issue on the NHS Pensions site

Industrial relations

Joint national guidance from unions and employers

The NHS Social Partnership Forum in England has agreed this joint statement on industrial relations during the pandemic. This sets out guidance on some key areas. Partnership working between employers and unions should be maintained with new ways of working. Consultation on changes to meet the emergency should still take place. Non essential organisational change should be postponed. Pragmatic approaches to disciplinary, grievances, and other procedures should be considered, with virtual meetings used with consent from the employee and trade union representatives. The guidance has been widely adopted across the country.

Regional and local partnership working

MiP’s officers are continuing to engage employers and system leaders in regional and local partnership forums, especially on staff testing and frameworks for redeployment. MiP also continues to represent members on partnership forums for national bodies such as NHS England and NHS Improvement, NHS Digital and the national forum for CSUs.

National partnership working

In England MiP belongs to all the key partnership groups covering discussions between staff side, NHS Employers, DHSC, NHS England and NHS Improvement and HEE. MiP’s chief executive Jon Restell is the staff side chair of the SPF Workforce Issues Group (WIG). WIG is currently focussed on health and wellbeing, staff deployment and the impact of COVID-19 on BME and other groups. For updates visit the Social Partnership Forum website.

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Read the latest official guidance
on how to protect yourself and others from Coronavirus (Covid-19) and what to do if you suspect that you have the virus.
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