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Covid-19 - Our message to our members

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

It is unprecedented and rapidly changing. It is already creating massive pressures and demands on everybody working in the health service.

The NHS response to Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic is the greatest single challenge ever faced by the NHS. It is unprecedented and rapidly changing. It is already creating massive pressures and demands on everybody working in the health service.

Creating capacity for Covid-19 care
NHS England (Simon Stevens and Amanda Pritchard, 17 March) directed the system to free up inpatient and clinical care capacity for Covid-19 patients. The initial plan includes cancelling all non urgent operations from 15 April, the urgent discharge of medically fit patients, and the block purchase of capacity in the private sector and developing capacity in community and intermediate care settings. The aim is to free up 30,000 beds out of 100,000 in England. The rest will continue to be used for the day to day emergency work of the NHS. The other key area is changing services for respiratory illness, particularly through providing mechanical ventilation and oxygen.

The paramount importance of infection control
NHS system leaders say it is vital that infection control experts lead decision-making in organisations. For example, providing guidance on when and how Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be used and prioritising the allocation of existing PPE stocks.

Trade union health and safety reps should be involved in risk assessments and making sure local issues are escalated to those in charge.

The role of managers

  • Emergency planning and modelling for services
    Our members are working flat out to manage a serious and escalating health crisis. They are urgently undertaking a wide range of activities such as emergency planning, service modelling and ensuring business continuity. Managers are working to manage the impact of the pandemic while keeping delivery of other urgent healthcare going.
  • Supporting staff and patients
    NHS managers are handling sensitive discussions about redeployment and making sure that staff, especially those working in high viral load areas and those with underlying health conditions, are kept safe and supported with the right advice and equipment. Many staff are understandably worried about issues such as the availability of testing and PPE. Staff are also worried about their own families and keeping them safe and well while they work at the centre of the pandemic.
  • Filling in the gaps
    In crisis situations managers themselves step into gaps in the system themselves, supporting their own staff and service areas and doing what’s needed to get the job done. Many managers are also clinically qualified and may be deployed to help provide care and clinical advice.

Key issues for staff (including managers)

Staff health, safety and well-being
Government advice to the public on isolation and family quarantine applies equally to healthcare staff. You should not be put at higher risk than patients or the general public. That includes the advice for people with complex health problems including immunosuppression; at risk groups due to age and underlying health conditions; and advice for pregnant women.

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

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

Personal Protective Equipment
We know from your reports that in places there are problems with the supply and provision of PPE. NHS England has recognised the issue and introduced more central control to ensure local shortages can be addressed as quickly as possible. This includes a helpline for employers and operational managers to raise supply issues.

There is limited capacity but this is being scaled up rapidly to roll out testing for healthcare staff, with systems for prioritising critical staff first which will need to be managed by local leaders. In the meantime the general public advice about self-isolation and infection control precautions applies for all staff.

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. We have received assurances that eligibility will be as wide as possible for health and social care staff. For the latest government announcements on partial school announcements see:

Pay, terms and conditions issues during the crisis

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.

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.

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.

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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