Nurses tell of mounting stress on the coronavirus frontline

Frontline workers have raised concerns over staff shortages and issues with PPE.

Nurses tell of mounting stress on the coronavirus frontline Getty Images

Nurses have told of the mounting stress they’re facing while trying to cope with coronavirus in hospitals.

Frontline workers told STV News that wards were often short-staffed due to sickness and raised concerns about the quality of personal protective equipment (PPE) they use.

They also said they feared taking the virus home to their families after spending the day with Covid-19 patients.

As of Saturday, 1863 coronavirus patients were being treated in Scotland’s hospitals, including 145 in intensive care.

Under condition of anonymity, nurses from different health boards admitted they sometimes felt like taking strike action, with one insisting: “We’ve had enough.”

It comes after frontline workers at University Hospital Monklands said the NHS was close to the “edge” and appealed for people to follow restrictions.

One nurse said: “It’s a circle of fear. It doesn’t matter how many get unwell, we work through it until we break.

“We are completely understaffed; staff who are having to isolate, staff going off with PTSD, with stress, completely burnt out because they are working 60-hour weeks.”

Two charge nurses said they only had basic PPE, gloves, visors, masks and aprons, and that they felt unprotected amid the new strain of the virus, which has sparked a rise in cases.

One said: “I don’t know what the solution is, but they need to start protecting us. It’s in our nature to preserve life, this is out of control.”

A number of health boards – including Ayrshire and Arran, Borders and Lanarkshire – have postponed all non-urgent surgery to focus resources on coronavirus, such is the scale of the situation in hospitals.

Frontline workers said it had left them feeling overwhelmed, putting increasing pressure on mental health support services.

One charge nurse said: “I go home and cry at the end of every shift. Everyone is trying to work together, but you can see morale going down.”

Trying to care for multiple Covid patients who can’t be seen by their own families has left some nurses feeling helpless.

“People are crying, they are so lonely, saying they don’t want to be here anymore because they are so lonely,” one nurse said.

“You have to split your time between them. You are watching them struggling to breath, there is nothing you can do.”

Union leaders said frontline health workers had been “consistently let down” during the pandemic.

Drew Duffy, public services organiser for GMB Scotland, said: “The truth is that many workers have little-to-no confidence that their safety is being prioritised.

“They were told that Scotland was prepared for Covid-19, but from PPE to testing, and now the first wave of the vaccination programme, they have been consistently let down.

“We are closing in on the first anniversary of this pandemic, but instead of listening to and supporting these workers, it looks increasingly like the Scottish Government and health boards are managing the message.

“That’s not good enough. Workers’ voices need to be heard, their safety needs to be prioritised and their value recognised.”

The Scottish Government was approached for comment.

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