Socialist Worker

“We felt abandoned by the state”—health workers speak out as they prepare for second wave

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2724

Health workers took to the streets last month

Health workers took to the streets last month (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Health workers are “physically and emotionally on their knees” as they prepare for a second wave of coronavirus.

The warning comes as the number of coronavirus cases in England rose by 60 percent in the last week.

Nurse Jonathan is “petrified” about how the health service will cope with the spike. “I am not saying this just to make an impact,” he told Socialist Worker.

“I was on my knees working through the pandemic and to think we are going to have another one is frightening.

“Working in mental health for the past 12 years, I know to look out for early warning signs like not sleeping well or being more irritable.

“The average day would start with a sleepless night, worrying about colleagues who were off with symptoms.

Handling of the virus has made mental distress worse
Handling of the virus has made mental distress worse
  Read More

“It is very hard to provide a service when you personally feel anxious, scared and worried.

“It is very difficult to provide reassurance to patients when you don’t know what’s happening next week.”

Jerry, a front line ambulance worker in London, has “just come out therapy” he told Socialist Worker, “a lot of staff are now seeking mental health support.

“We felt abandoned by the state—we had no PPE, no masks, no support.”

Jerry says “rules passed from above so the NHS wouldn’t be overwhelmed” meant people did not get the care they needed.

“Our role is to help people,” he said. “But we were put in a position where we were trying to leave people at home who never in our careers would we have kept at home before.

Stress

“They were expecting us to accept abnormal levels of temperature, pulse and blood pressure.”

Exhaustion and burnout are leading a growing number of nurses to quit the NHS after three years of joining, according to fresh research. A new study by the King’s Fund think tank said, “Staff stress, absenteeism and turnover in the profession has reached alarmingly high levels.

“This has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has laid bare and exacerbated longer-term issues.”

Isobel, a domestic at a Derbyshire hospital, explains there is “a new normal—I’ve gone from doing 18 hours a week to 50 hours a week”. “We’ve been expecting this for a few weeks,” she told Socialist Worker. “The anxieties have heightened in the last week with the government announcements.

“We know it’s going to get worse with other pressures during winter.”

Jerry said health workers feel in a better position because “hospitals are more geared up” with “separate areas for people suspected of coronavirus”.

“But the government hasn't managed track and trace,” he said. “I had to isolate because my wife had Covid-19 symptoms.

“They offered us a test in Bedford so we opted for a postal test. The guidelines say no symptoms, return to work after ten days. It was only four or five days after I returned that I had the results.

“What would make you think the government will do the right thing in this episode of Covid-19?”

Jonathan added, “Everybody I’ve spoken to says they have lost trust in the government. I appreciated the Clap for Carers the first time round, but I don’t think I would want to see it again.

“I’d rather the government paid people properly who are literally putting their lives and their families lives at risk.”


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