Amidst the coronavirus crisis, it has become clear that already stretched healthcare departments are now being asked to rise up to tackle an insurmountable problem – the national consequences of a global pandemic. Indeed, upon writing, the coronavirus is fast approaching over 1 million confirmed cases and many thousands of deaths. However, the burden comes not on the deadliness of the disease itself (COVID-19), but of the deaths which could occur when relatively simple pieces of care equipment such as ventilators are inaccessible or occupied by other patients. Regardless of the country, amount of money or resources, no current healthcare system is prepared to combat a pandemic and the sheer volume of in-patients which are to be expected. Indeed, not only is there a shortage of pieces of healthcare equipment, but the production of this equipment is in vain if healthcare specialists are not around to co-ordinate, implicate and oversee the care of patients.
Health secretary Matt Hancock announced the ‘call to arms’ of healthcare workers in preparation for the larger number of in-patients and co-ordination of patient care during the crisis. At the time of writing, over 7,500 healthcare workers and nurses have answered the call following their previous service in the NHS. This temporary nursing register is to be managed by the NMC, with the new volunteers under their care, health and safety and training requirements of their respective bodies. This care initiative will signal a sigh of relief for the NHS who face staffing issues even without pressing global concerns such as right now.
One of the benefits of signing up at this time is the ease of registration, without an NMC fee to pay. Furthermore, it is recognised that returning healthcare workers and nurses have their ‘minimum service’ practice requirements waivered to allow a greater pool of nurses and healthcare workers to be accepted onto the temporary register. In the return of these healthcare workers, both the Royal College of Nursing and the NMC have praised the unprecedented response. The NMC's chief executive and registrar, Andrea Sutcliffe said, “We know it’s a huge ask, but by offering to return to work in this hour of need, I know what a massive difference your expertise and experience will bring for everyone working in and receiving care in the NHS, in communities, in nursing homes and across the country during the challenging weeks and months ahead”.
Among performing regular care for patients in nursing home, accident and emergency departments, triage and other roles, these workers may also be expected to provide care in response centres and coronavirus hospitals – such as the new NHS Nightingale hospital at the London ExCel arena. One of the many challenges of this time is that normal care pressures and healthcare demands do not cease for a pandemic – and thus there remains the normal burden of healthcare to contend with. As a prediction, we may see governing bodies and the health secretary extend calls for workers to even further disciplines which are care giving, but not as ‘frontline’ as doctors and nurses, such as health care assistants, carers, porters and other roles.
Many factories around the United Kingdom have begun manufacturing ventilators and other respiratory support systems which are vital to preventing deaths from coronavirus. In more severe cases and severe disease and comorbidities, the burden of respiratory function becomes too great and respiratory depression can occur in individuals who often go on to succumb to the disease. However, the use of ventilators can provide a window of time by which the individual’s immune system can gather natural immunity and overcome the infection. However, as of the beginning of this British outbreak, only 5,000 ventilators were in possession of the NHS across the entire United Kingdom – not nearly enough for a large contingency of patients who may require hospital treatment. Thus, it is not only important to consider the mechanical and resource burden of disease, but also the expert deployment and maintenance of these technologies, something made impossible without the expertise of our healthcare workers. It is expected that even more nurses, retired doctors and healthcare workers will answer the country’s call for support, strengthening our resolve in this difficult time. We say kudos and thank you to our selfless colleagues in the frontline of the fight against coronavirus and implore companies to do all they can to support these invaluable members of society.