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Any return of the NHS to ‘normal service’ post pandemic must have the patient at its centre, but must also not come at the expense of nurses’ health and wellbeing, the Royal College of Nursing has said.
The college has published a document, Principles for Return to Service, outlining eight key tests it wants to see being met for returning to ‘normal’ in the NHS.
Within this, it has called on the government and healthcare employers to focus on patient need and the ability to safely staff services, and to ensure nursing staff are involved in any plans or decisions.
Staffing levels must be addressed as a matter of urgency and must return to pre-Covid-19 levels as a minimum, particularly in areas such as intensive care where ratios were diluted to unsafe levels during the pandemic, it warned.
The principles have also emphasised the importance of nursing staff having timely and ongoing access to mental health and wellbeing services.
The NHS has said it is set to open 40 dedicated mental health support hubs for healthcare workers across England, a move that has been welcomed by the RCN.
RCN England director Mike Adams said: “Over the last 12 months, nursing staff have been under incredible pressure and we have seen the pandemic take its toll on their mental health. This shows why we need more services like this welcome initiative.
“Our members were reporting high levels of work-related stress and burnout before the pandemic began. We entered this crisis with nearly 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone and the last year has further highlighted the impact this has on our members’ ability to deliver safe and effective care, and their own wellbeing,” he added.