By Regan Kelly.
“Some people just have a cough or have to self isolate, for me; I may end up in hospital on a ventilator because my body cant fight off this infection.”Lauren- NHS Nurse.
In April 2020 at the peak of the first wave of this pandemic, it was reported that 14% of NHS Scotland staff were out of work during that month. Interestingly almost half of those absences are related to coronavirus. In recent months, this figure has risen to a peak of around 9000 staff, although the figure has gone down slightly and hopefully will continue to do so, while the vaccination programme continues at breakneck speed, something Healthcare workers will be the first to benefit from and hopefully this will bring down staff absences. https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot
This figure details the absences across NHS Scotland but does not consider the amount of those in that list who may not be returning to work. Although, a substantial proportion of those who are absent may come back to work once their isolation period is over. There is a certain section of Health Care staff who face a hugely difficult decision.
In healthcare things were always harder for those members of staff, who may have always had to take extra precautions with regards to their health compared to colleagues. Although, with coronavirus those members of staff that have already compromised immune systems, face a difficult decision between their career and their health.
I spoke with Lauren, who has recently just started as a Nurse in Glasgow. Lauren has multiple Underlying health difficulties and in general must be extremely careful with regards to catching Coronavirus. “Being a Diabetic, I already have a compromised immune system, it doesn’t make me more susceptible to getting it, but it might mean my body would find it harder to fight the infection off”. “Even getting a Flu or a cold, we find it a lot harder to fight it”.
Thankfully while undertaking her training, she could be redeployed to a safer ward within the hospital. But now since the virus is so rampant there is a genuine fear that she may not be safe in any ward now. This leaves Lauren in a predicament as a young Nurse embarking on her first steps in her career, with whether to take the risk or to shield completely until her turn for vaccination comes around.
There are some supports in place for those members of staff who may need it. Speaking with a representative from the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland, he detailed to me some of the precautionary measures in place to secure the safety of those staff. Which the organisation are heavily involved in, along with campaigning for better pay and working conditions. They had previously succeeded by abolishing statutory sick pay for people shielding, as they “lobbied hard” to change it.
“First thing to do would be to Have a risk assesment done”. Once this is carried out, it can be worked out whether that member of staff can be “redeployed” to another area in healthcare or if they would need to shield from the virus altogether. Interestingly though, the Scottish government has now allowed for higher pay for those members of staff who need to shield from the virus. https://www.rcn.org.uk/
We can hold out hope that once vaccinated, Health-care workers like Lauren can return to work without much fear for their mental and physical well-being.
For those involved in the healthcare industry, you can find out more about supports for your mental and physical well-being at https://www.promis.scot/find-help/.