An honour to serve
This is my first blog of 2021 and one which I find myself posting in unprecedented times. As interim Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care, I am nonetheless honoured to have this opportunity to work with - not just the nursing profession - but the whole social care workforce, as together we strive to meet the continuing challenges of COVID-19.
Firstly, let me pay tribute to everyone playing such vital roles in the enormous collective effort to manage the pandemic response. Your ability to maintain some semblance of continuity and normality in the lives of those you care for, in the midst of so many restrictions, setbacks and disruptions, is incredible.
Care staff have suffered, but so too have residents and their families. The anxiety and emotional distress caused by the lack of family visits has been mitigated in part through virtual online meetings and calls, no doubt helped with the national roll out of iPads as flagged in the Winter Plan.
That said, no one underestimates the impact loss of contact has on those already feeling isolated, especially at a time when we all need the love and care of those around us more than ever. That’s why I am so proud of the way our sector has redoubled efforts to maintain meaningful connections between staff, residents and the most vulnerable in our communities.
Those we have lost
We must also pay tribute to those colleagues who have sadly lost their lives as they strove to preserve others. The impact on their families and colleagues has been immense. One of my colleagues was in ITU for 103 days last year and is still recovering from the impact of this terrible virus.
I have seen first-hand the stress felt by colleagues and their families. This has been an unforgiving time for so many. We must remember to look after each other, especially in these coming weeks, and for as long as this lockdown lasts.
For those of you needing support or aware of those who do, I cannot recommend the CARE app highly enough. If you haven’t done so already, I urge you to download this one stop shop for information, advice and support now. It features a suite of mental health and wellbeing resources, including helplines and text services available 24/7 – you are never alone.
Even as we welcome the national vaccine rollout across the country, we must continue to maintain vigilance on infection prevention control (IPC) practices and make sure everyone maintains the highest standards of infection prevention for those in our care.
Only by doing this can we minimise risk, keep everyone safe and ease the pressure felt by our equally incredible NHS colleagues. On this point, I hope your organisations and local authorities have made arrangements for your vaccinations, if they haven’t done so already.
No let up in safety
Meanwhile, the role of clinical leadership will be critical in making sure the highest IPC standards are adhered to. Repetition of hygiene processes, spot checking hand-washing techniques and correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE), are all essential in the fight to prevent - or at least contain - outbreaks. I go into more detail on these and other essential issues in this letter, which I hope has also reached you this week.
It may not feel like it now, but there is a lot we can learn from our response to this pandemic. We have an opportunity to harness the innovation, collaboration and creativity which has flourished so much during these last ten months. I have no doubt we will emerge from this crisis the recipients of renewed respect and recognition from the nation, including our equally deserving NHS colleagues, for the huge contribution we have made through these difficult times.
We need to establish an ambitious new narrative for the social care nursing and wider workforce, one where their skills, values and expertise are recognised for the life transforming gifts they are.
To be supporting and guiding such a dedicated and passionate workforce through these difficult times is an incredible privilege. When all this is over, I am confident this sentiment will be echoed loudly by friends, families and communities throughout the land.