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Healthcare staff must be given time to recuperate from pandemic, say leaders

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The NHS must have a realistic and steady approach to resuming services disrupted by the pandemic that explicitly recognises the need for staff to recover, NHS leaders have said.

In a letter to the prime minister leaders from the NHS Confederation, which represents healthcare providers, warned, “The NHS cannot recover its services at the same rate of increase when staff are so exhausted.”

The letter noted that there were over 5000 more patients with COVID-19 in UK hospitals right now that at the peak of the first wave and that this was taking its toll on staff. The leaders called for sustained local mental health support for the NHS workforce beyond the end of March and for a long term, fully funded plan to increase staffing numbers.

The government must also set out clear expectations for the public on when routine procedures and other treatments would be fully back on line, they added.

“With a workforce on its knees and many of the pre-pandemic challenges still very much at play they need your government both to acknowledge the consequences of the immense pressure their workers have been under so far, and to be realistic and honest with the public about what the NHS can safely deliver moving forward,” the letter said.

Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said that while health leaders would continue to prioritise urgent care and patients with the greatest clinical need, the prime minister must “be upfront with the public about what the NHS can safely deliver in this next phase.”

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Source: The BMJ, 11 February 2021

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