Urgent attention must be paid to the care home sector if the workforce is to withstand the additional demands of the pandemic, the world’s oldest nursing charity has said.
The Queens Nursing Institute (QNI) issued the warning after its new report revealed that COVID-19 crisis has been a “very negative experience” for care home nurses and managers, with many reporting that their physical and mental wellbeing has suffered.
The QNI reported that the effects of having to accept patients from hospitals with unknown COVID-19 status, being told about plans not to resuscitate residents without consulting families and a lack of guidance on issues like PPE have taken their toll on the workforce.
The study was conducted on 163 care home nurses and managers across the country between March and May.
It found that 34 (21%) received residents from hospitals who had tested positive for COVID-19 and 70 (43%) received residents with an unknown COVID-19 status at the height of the crisis.
Nearly a third of respondents reported that it was “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to access GPs (32%) and district nursing services (33%) when residents needed treatment.
Meanwhile, 16 respondents (10%) reported “negative changes”, such as “blanket Do Not Attempt Cardio-pulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) decisions”, or decisions taken by GPs, hospital staff and CCGs about DNR orders without discussion with residents, families or care home staff.
And the majority (80%) of registered nurses and care home managers reported “very negative experiences” during the peak of the crisis; such as not being valued; poor terms and conditions; feeling unsupported and blamed for deaths; and a lack of clear guidance.
As a result, 56% of respondents said they felt “worse” or “much worse” in terms of their physical and mental wellbeing, while 36% reported no change.
Dr Crystal Oldman CBE, Chief Executive of QNI, commented: “Overall, as would be expected, the picture presented is of an extremely stressful and anxious period for professionals working to care for and protect their residents. The positives represent a silver lining to this cloud and there are numerous testaments to the skill, dedication, professionalism and teamwork that Care Home Nurses have displayed in 2020. In addition, this brief insight into the experiences of the nurses provides an opportunity to consider and plan for the support systems that may be needed in the anticipated second wave of Covid-19.
“More needs to be done to understand the effect of Covid-19 on the workforce and residents in care homes. Urgent attention must be paid to the sector if the workforce is to withstand the additional demands of the pandemic, particularly in planning, guidance and employment practices.”