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Caring during Covid-19: How the health and care sectors have been impacted by a year of coronavirus

Covid-19 has caused a year of huge upheaval for families, businesses and society.

Over 10.6 million key workers have kept the country afloat over the past year. The largest group of these work in health and social care (31% according to the Office for National Statistics), with frontline NHS workers and other health care staff crucial to responding to the pandemic and helping vulnerable children and adults. 

The health and care sectors are markedly different following a year of Covid-19, leading to the creation of new challenges along with some beneficial changes.

The perception of healthcare workers

The devoted doctors, nurses, carers and healthcare staff across the country have been vital to stopping the pandemic. We are incredibly proud that many of our Reed Health & Care candidates and clients have supported the Covid-19 testing in the last year, plus the NHS national effort to vaccinate the population.

Rightfully, this has increased awareness about the importance of health and care staff in society. Despite the current disputes over pay increases in England and Wales, it is a first step in realising both sectors’ importance, which we hope continues.

It has also opened conversations about the realities of these roles. It is not just about being ‘Covid-19 heroes’ – even before the coronavirus, health and care staff felt undervalued. It is now time to recognise that these roles need further development and training. In addition, authorities need to introduce new care models and deliver more integrated care, with the health and social care system needing transformation, and to be put at the heart of the government’s strategy, as it faces unprecedented financial and service pressures.

The dangers of misinformation

The pandemic itself has brought about many difficulties, with health and care staff working hard every day to protect and care for the most vulnerable in society. One year on, and we now have a vaccination programme in the UK.

REED has kept families and communities reassured and informed with this programme. Erika Hemsworth, Senior Area Manager at Reed Health and Care, said:

It was extremely important that we quickly established an internal structure to support the roll out of the vaccination programme, and work closely with local authorities to produce data on the numbers of staff vaccinated. During this year, we have facilitated weekly Covid-19 testing of staff, provided continuous support to the teams of frontline staff, and where possible, arranged staff vaccination appointments. It is important to me that we embrace the government message to protect the NHS and care sector and save lives.

However, frontline health and care workers have been targeted with misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine. With the already intense difficulties of the pandemic, spreading fear and misinformation can be incredibly damaging to the wellbeing of our key workers.

It is important that key workers, and their employers, continue to rely on trusted sources of information for Covid-19 and the vaccine. Current advice is that if you receive a message, advertisement or see any social media content about vaccines from an unverified account, you can check the information on FullFact, an independent fact checking organisation which corrects facts reported in the news and social media.

As we get closer to the next step of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap, it is important to continue to challenge disinformation with facts. If you are unsure where to look for factual resources, whether you are a key worker or a line manager, reputable websites for the vaccine and Covid-19 include Care England, NHS and Gov.uk.

Protecting your mental health

We shared a popular blog during the pandemic on managing your mental health as a care home worker during Covid-19, but this is not only applicable to those in the care industry. Anxiety, stress and depression may have become far more common during the last year, with many frontline healthcare workers experiencing mental health problems during the first lockdown. The World Health Organization suggests that all healthcare workers should put their mental wellbeing on par with their physical health, as they continue to do their very best for residents, relatives, work colleagues and themselves. Now, more than ever, health and care staff need support and guidance for their mental wellbeing.

Lastly, I would like to thank you all once again for your continued dedication and professionalism. For those who work with Reed Health & Care: thank you for allowing us to continue to provide outstanding and invaluable services to our customers. Our families, communities and clients are incredibly grateful to you. Over this last year, we supported more than 300 clients to deliver over 565,000 hours of care, nursing and support. But this thanks extends to everyone in the sectors. Your caring and compassionate nature may have felt overlooked, but I assure you that we have all noticed the lengths you have gone to provide high quality care and support. It is your selflessness and hard work in looking after the most vulnerable in society that has given us all hope of a sense of normality as we continue into 2021. 

If you are a health and care worker looking for a new career opportunity, or are recruiting for a healthcare candidate to join your team REED can help. Contact your local Reed Health & Care branch today.

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