All nursing and midwifery staff are fundamental to informing the public and reassuring them about the COVID-19 outbreak.
This page provides RCN members across the health and social care workforce, including nursing support workers and students, with clinical information and key resources to support their understanding of and help them with management of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In late December 2019 a new (novel) coronavirus was identified in China causing severe respiratory disease including pneumonia.
The virus causing the infection has been named - severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) this is a new strain of coronavirus causing COVID-19.
Since 19 March COVID-19 is no longer categorised as a High Consequence Infections Disease (HCID) in the UK, see Public Health England for more information.
SARS-CoV-2 infections are spreading between people globally; see the WHO situation reports dashboard which is updated daily and the Johns Hopkins University dashboard which aims to present real time data uploads. The situation was declared a pandemic on 12th March 2020.
As a newly identified virus there is currently no human immunity to it and no vaccine is available to prevent infection. As a viral infection, antibiotics are not an effective treatment.
Coronaviruses are a common family of viruses and one of the causes of the common cold. In general, most people infected with COVID-19 will present with mild to moderate respiratory like symptoms, but those with underlying illness and co morbidity are more likely to develop serious illness (see the WHO information).
Other examples of Coronavirus include MERS Co-V and SARS both of which have prompted global collaboration to reduce spread between people and to protect healthcare workers. The evidence from these outbreaks is being used to inform the response to COVID-19. As the pandemic progresses, scientists and health care professionals are continuing to learn more about how coronavirus is transmitted and how best to protect health care workers and treat those affected.
It is a fast-moving evolving situation and as with any new strain of virus, the guidance for healthcare workers and health and social care services is being developed and updated frequently. This reflects the need to take a view of the global situation as well as the situation across the UK. Alongside a growing understanding of the infection risk of this new virus; incubation time, infectiousness, severity of the infection for some individuals alongside specific demographic and ethnicity risk factors, as evidenced in the PHE report . The ‘What you need to know’ section of this resource provides more information and detail.
A covid-19 vaccination programme commenced in the UK in December 2020 and is currently being rolled out with the elderly and vulnerable prioritised for the vaccine.
On 14th December the United Kingdom reported a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 to the World health Organisation (WHO) identified via viral genomic sequencing. This is associated with a rapid increase in spread of the infection in England. Investigations are underway currently to assess the implications of the mutations expressed in this new variant.
All nursing and midwifery staff, including, nursing associates, and healthcare support workers, must familiarise themselves with their local policies on emergency planning, infection prevention and control. They should also keep up to date with national guidance issued by the UK governments and relevant UK Public Health agencies.
This information is updated regularly to reflect the changing situation. It is important that members look on the web sites and check the links to ensure they are looking at the most up to date information.
UK Coronavirus response
The exact response to the pandemic will reflect the nature, scale and location of infection as the situation develops and members are advised to look on the links to the guidance to make sure they are accessing the most up to date information.
Public information campaign
The Department of Health and Social Care public information campaign including the importance of handwashing and other measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
See: Coronavirus (COVID-19): campaign information and resources.
For health protection advice, contact your local health protection team:
- Find your local health protection team in England
- Health Protection Scotland: enquiries
- Health Select Committee Northern Ireland health protection
- Public Health Wales: contact us
Information for the public; what to do if you have symptoms, patients who are concerned should be advised to contact NHS 111
The following provide more detailed advice for the public across the UK:
Information for the public; including stay at home advice for people who are self-isolating, from the NHS
- NHS advice: Overview of COVID-19
- NHS Scotland Inform advice for professionals in health or care settings
The RCN are working with national UK agencies and other key stakeholders such (for example other Royal Colleges) to support preparedness and management of the current situation providing an RCN perspective based on our role as a Royal College and Trade Union.
The protection of healthcare workers, development and review of guidance and resilience of healthcare provision is our current key focus. Please refer back to the main RCN COVID-19 (coronavirus) resource.
See: RCN position on COVID-19. The detail below provides more specific information and access to further resources.