A major IPPR/YouGov poll of almost 1,000 UK healthcare professionals today reveals that Covid-19 has made more than one in five healthcare workers more likely to leave their role after the pandemic. In the National Health Service in England this would be the equivalent of losing 300,000 vital workers.
This demonstrates that the government must do much more to help hardworking health professionals cope at this time of unprecedented stress, according to IPPR. The progressive think tank warns that if urgent action is not taken, healthcare capacity could be impacted for years after the end of the Covid-19 crisis.
The polling informs a new IPPR report Care Fit For Carers – which proposes a comprehensive support package for frontline ‘heroes of the coronavirus’, with the same ambition as the post-World War 1 drive to deliver ‘homes fit for heroes’.
Covid-19 has put healthcare workers under severe strain
The polling reveals that healthcare professionals have significant and diverse needs, that are not being supported properly during the Covid-19 crisis:
- Mental Health – Half of healthcare workers said their mental health had deteriorated since the Covid-19 crisis began. Mental health impact was greatest on younger workers (aged 18 to 34) – where as many as 71 per cent said their mental health had got worse.
- Health – As many as 1 in 3 reported that their physical health has got worse since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. Half of healthcare workers said the government had not done enough to protect their families’ health.
- Childcare – Of those aged 35 to 44 – the age group most likely to have children – 34 per cent said childcare had become a problem.
- Job Security – One third of those working in private sector roles in the health service – for example agency workers and subcontractors – said that they had lost job security during the Covid-19 crisis.
Women were more likely to have experienced detrimental impacts on their life during Covid-19 (89 per cent) compared to men (83 per cent). Impacts were also sometimes higher in London, where the crisis is more advanced.
The general public support more government intervention
The public want the government to introduce more substantial support for health and care workers, according to IPPR. In a separate poll of the general public 96 per cent agreed government should introduce more support for healthcare workers’ physical health, and 95 per cent supported more support for mental health, while 88 per cent were in favour of more generous pay and leave entitlements for them.
Care Fit for Carers – Five Guarantees
The government has frequently used war analogies to communicate the struggle against Covid-19. Now, just as after World War 1 there was the ‘homes fit for heroes’ drive and after World War 2 the establishment of the ‘cradle to grave’ National Health Service, the report argues the government must deliver ‘Care fit for Carers’.
This would provide all frontline professionals with the support they need now and ensure a fair deal to recognise their heroic contribution once the crisis is over. IPPR calls for five key guarantees for carers:
- A Safety Guarantee – The government must do everything in its power to ensure PPE supply to health and social care workers through this crisis – including by extensively repurposing UK manufacturing. They must also urgently make progress on testing health and care workers.
- An Accommodation Guarantee – No-one should face housing or accommodation insecurity while working on the coronavirus frontline. Government should expand the offer of free hotel accommodation and provide grants to cover rental arrears during this crisis period.
- A Mental Health Guarantee – The severe impact of the pandemic on the mental health of healthcare workers is clear, including stress, anxiety and trauma. The government must ensure workers’ mental health is safeguarded by extending priority specialist therapy access to nurses, midwives, ambulance staff, clinical support staff and the 1.3 million people working in social care.
- A Pay Guarantee – The government must ensure everyone in the sector has adequate pay to live off, and recognise their skill and effort, by:
- Guaranteeing people their full salary if they fall ill, rather than the ‘pitifully low’ Statutory Sick Pay entitlement.
- Paying a one-off Covid-19 bonus of 10 per cent for all workers in health and care for 2020/21.
- After the crisis, ensuring no health and care professional is paid less than the real living wage.
- Giving social care workers parity of pay with NHS work, with salaries starting from £19,737 and clear progression – a move that will also help tackle the high turnover rate in social care.
- A Care Guarantee – Many health and care professionals have unpaid care commitments. The government must prioritise key workers by funding a significant uplift in free childcare provision, and by prioritising their dependents in community support – such as nurseries and creches.
If action on this scale is not taken, the result will be significant strain on key workers during the Covid-19 crisis. In turn, this could leave many leave the sector after the outbreak – due to burnout, anxiety, trauma or stress – leading to a collapse in care capacity across the country.
There is also a need to recognise the efforts of healthcare professionals as a whole nation. The report recommends a new bank holiday – to celebrate both health and care workers. This will mark 150 years since the first Bank Holidays Act (1871). Almost two-thirds of the public supported this policy proposal, compared to under a quarter who opposed.
Chris Thomas, IPPR Health Research Fellow and lead author of the report, said:
“Our care heroes are making significant sacrifices to pull our country through this crisis. But government must ensure people’s lives, livelihoods and security are not lost unnecessarily. That means taking urgent action.
“Care Fit for Carers is about giving the heroes of the coronavirus pandemic the protection, support and security they need. No one should have to put their health at risk because PPE is lacking. No one should face a mental health crisis because no support was there. And no one should face financial destitution while delivering our crisis response.”
Harry Quilter-Pinner, IPPR Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Better Health and Care programme, said:
“Covid-19 is a national emergency. NHS and social care workers are risking their lives on the frontline day in day out in order to protect us all.
“But they cannot keep us healthy if they are not healthy themselves. This requires the government to take bold action to protect their health, safety and welfare. This must mean access to PPE and testing – but equally as important, to counselling and proper pay. After World War 1 the public demanded ‘homes fit for heroes’. Today, we demand Care Fit for Carers.”
Dr Clare Gerada, Medical Director of the Practitioner Health Programme, Covid-19 survivor, former chair of the RCGP and IPPR advisory panel member said:
“Covid-19 has disrupted our way of life in an unprecedented way. Yet, when we needed them most, our remarkable health and care workers have stepped up. Working on the frontline, I feel privileged to see their dedication and bravery day after day.”
“They are doing right by us. It is time for us to do right by them. The Care fit for Carers package is about looking after the people who have looked after us. It is the very least we can do to support our healthcare heroes.”
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, said:
“If there is one thing that this dreadful pandemic has shown us it is that the social care workforce is our greatest resource. We must learn from this and train, resource and cherish the workforce accordingly.
“An important legacy of this crisis must be securing the status of social care as one on equal to the NHS. Never again must social care be the underdog. Social care must retain its rightful status which will therefore necessitate adequate resourcing, funding and status.”