Across the UK community transmission of COVID-19 is rising rapidly. Scotland currently has the highest rate of cases in Europe with hospital admissions and the number of patients in ICU rising.
This is causing immense and immediate pressure on the NHS, with significant staff shortages being reported by many health boards.
It is understood proposals are in development by Scottish government to change the requirements so staff who have received both vaccinations are no longer required to self-isolate and can return to work.
The RCN is clear that the safety of patients and staff must be put first and until the following points are clarified the RCN is not in a position to support the early return of self-isolating staff:
- The evidence must be clear, transparent and publicly available. Accountability for any decision to implement this policy must be clear and does not sit with the individual nurse or healthcare worker. The RCN will follow the evidence/science in its decision making.
- The RCN expects that re-mobilisation plans and elective services be limited as the first measure to increase capacity, as has been done at other critical parts of the pandemic.
- Employers should make appropriate respiratory PPE, FFP3 masks, available to staff as necessary.
The RCN has further concerns regarding the public messaging and compliance with guidance if the guidelines for health and care staff change.
Martin MacGregor, Vice Chair, RCN Scotland Board said: “Nursing staff across Scotland’s health and social care services have been working under the pressure of staff shortages for years now, not just during this pandemic. Yet again the impact on nursing staff and ultimately patient safety is being compounded by the increase in COIVD related absences.
“Nursing is a safety critical profession and research shows that there is a direct link between staff having the time to care and positive outcomes for patients. The reports of staff shortages and the number of registered nurses available on wards are extremely concerning. We’re seeing the toll this is taking on staff who are already exhausted and worn down.
“Urgent action is needed and nursing staff are keen to find a way to work safely. However, patients and staff must have continued protection from this highly contagious disease.
“If the Scottish Government is looking to change the rules for healthcare workers, they need to share the science they have, demonstrate how they will manage any risks and ensure nursing staff have access to the highest level of PPE.”