MPs raise concerns over mental and physical wellbeing of care staff

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Additional pressure during the pandemic has led to workforce fatigue and ‘burnout’, impacting on the mental and physical wellbeing of NHS and care staff, a report by MPs has concluded.

The health and social care committee said it was concerned some NHS and care staff were suffering exhaustion and a general feeling of being ‘burnt out’, and that the wellbeing of workers was at significant risk.

Its report, Delivering core NHS and care services during the pandemic and beyond, highlighted the lack of an equivalent NHS People Plan for the social care workforce and said it would be commenting about support for those working in the sector in its forthcoming document on workforce and funding.

Suhail Mirza, consultant and author of LaingBuisson’s report on staffing, which is due out next year, said: ‘Wellness and wellbeing of care staff has never been more important particularly in light of the demands of their heroic efforts over the recent months battling with Covid-19. Such demand will once more be made as we enter the winter months.’

He said given the number of vacancies within the sector and the challenge of international recruitment it will be providers who ‘truly invest time and resource’ in supporting workforce wellbeing that were likely to attract and retain skilled care staff.

The MPs report, which also covered issues relating to PPE and testing, raised concerns about discrimination and racism against black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) NHS and care staff. ‘No member of NHS staff or social care worker should face bullying, harassment or discrimination and in particular, we have received urgent calls for greater steps to be taken to ensure BAME staff are protected and to ensure racism—in whatever form—is eradicated from the NHS and care,’ it said.

The strategy for testing had ‘arguably moved too slowly and put patients, care home residents, and NHS and care staff at avoidable risk’, according to MPs.

The government has delivered more than 3.5 billion items of PPE to the health and social care frontline to date. Last month, it announced that people in adult social care settings would be provided with protective equipment for free as part of its winter plan for the sector.

Responding to the report, NHS Confederation chief executive Danny Mortimer said it had consistently called for prioritised, frequent, and easy-to-access testing for all health and social care staff but despite promises from government this had ‘consistently not materialised’.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘The decisive and extensive action we have taken, guided by the scientific advice, has meant that the NHS was not overwhelmed even at the virus’ peak, so that everyone was always able to get the best possible care.’

It said it would continue to expand testing to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.