Our members are telling us that they are exhausted, stressed and scared about the next steps in this terrible journey we are all on. I can only imagine what it must feel like to go into work each day in this situation and I am humbled by the fact that you all pitch up day after day to care for those in need.
I am here to pledge my personal commitment to call the Welsh Government and employers to account to ensure your health, safety and well-being. I’d also like to take this opportunity to update you on what RCN Wales is doing to keep up the pressure on important issues.
We have asked for fortnightly technical briefings to assure us that the right levels and types of personal protective equipment (PPE) are available for healthcare settings across Wales, including care homes. We will call the Welsh Government to account should our members tell us this is not the case.
We have written to the Minister for Health and Social Services outlining our concerns about the current testing levels and model and have urged that testing be improved and access increased. We have particularly pushed for increased testing in care homes for frontline hospital staff,and for those attending them, such as district nurses.
We are asking questions regarding COVID-19 in the long-term and the support available to staff – particularly in the NHS where we have more leverage. Not only are we concerned with issues around flexible working and phased returns for those with residual symptoms who want to return to work, but also pay for those who need to remain on sick leave and those who require mental health support.
In terms of those who have been shielding, we are keeping up the pressure to ensure that anybody returning to work has an appropriate risk assessment that automatically scores a 7 (deeming them very high risk) and that actions are taken to enable then to work at home or in a COVID-19 secure environment.
During these times safe staffing must be a priority to ensure patients receive the right care. We are scrutinising the winter plans and how health boards are going to ensure clinical services are staffed appropriately. We are also keeping a watching brief on what you are telling us (whatever the care setting) about your ability to have adequate breaks during the working day, sufficient rest between shifts and take leave to recuperate and reboot.
Please continue to look after yourselves and your colleagues. Do keep me informed of what is going on out there so that RCN Wales can have a loud voice at the highest level. You can tweet me – @nichughes1 – or email CommunicationsWales@rcn.org.uk. Take care!