The RCN has published staff recovery and patient safety principles which they say must guide health care employers in planning the return to ‘normal’ service delivery.
The document includes eight key principles focusing on staff recovery and patient safety. Crucially, it says that staffing levels must be urgently addressed and must return to pre-COVID-19 levels as a minimum, particularly in areas such as intensive care where ratios were diluted to unsafe levels during the pandemic. The principles emphasise that nursing staff need rest and recuperation, including funded time out in addition to annual leave, as part of any ‘recovery and retention strategy’ in health care.
Read more: Some nurses at risk of being left behind on vaccination
‘The Prime Minister must not bow to political pressure, only to pile it on health and care services instead,’ said RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair.
‘The messaging on hands, face and space must be reinforced, not diluted. Nursing staff are still telling me that the pressure on hospitals and other services are as bad as at any point last year.’
Read more: Frontline workers left ‘risking lives to provide treatment’
The principles highlight the importance of nursing staff having timely and ongoing access to services to support their mental health and wellbeing, including confidential counselling, bereavement and psychological trauma support for all staff. The RCN is also calling for ‘long COVID’ to be recognised as an occupational disease with appropriate support put in place.
‘Exhausted staff must be supported to recover and pressure must abate further before we can enjoy the normality everybody craves,’ added Dame Donna.