Health professionals issue ‘plea for understanding’ to patients
A public awareness campaign to explain how NHS services are operating in the wake of COVID-19 is needed to try to prevent increasing levels of frustration among patients, according to the trade union representing doctors.
A “pent-up” demand for appointments, coupled with a restricted method of working has led to a lack of understanding among many people requiring access to NHS services.
Speaking at Holyrood’s health and care fringe event at the SNP’s virtual conference, Dr Lewis Morrison, Chair of BMA Scotland, warned that COVID-19 is still going to be here for several months and people therefore need to understand why the NHS is working the way it is.
He issued a “plea for understanding” and said an awareness campaign explaining why health professionals are having to work the way they are is important to “maintain civility”.
“A much clearer public messaging campaign is required to explain to the public why things are so different and why they must maintain civility. We have months of this left and everybody has to pull together to get through it.”
He added: “General practice right now is actually busier than this time last year – firstly because of pent-up demand but because the way we work is different. If we have to work slower, it will make people frustrated.”
Morrison told how there had been some “absolutely unacceptable” behaviour which healthcare staff have had to put up with and now that the clapping for the NHS has stopped, frustrations are starting to show.
The issue has been highlighted across the board for healthcare workers, including those working in pharmacies.
Community pharmacists in particular have been on the receiving end of a lot of abuse from members of the public due to the fact they were often the only health care professionals people had direct access to at the height of lockdown.
They have also seen their workload increase as a result of the pandemic and the body representing the profession says there needs to be better support for pharmacists’ wellbeing.
Clare Morrison, Director for Scotland, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said COVID-19 had adversely impacted on many pharmacists’ health and wellbeing.
According to a recent poll, 33 per cent of the profession say they are considering leaving, while 72 per cent say their work is negatively impacting their health and wellbeing and 89 per cent are at risk of burnout.
Theresa Fyffe, Royal College of Nursing Scotland Director, said there is a sense of feeling “very undervalued” among nursing staff in Scotland.
She told the panel that 38 per cent of RCN Scotland members reported saying they were thinking of leaving nursing, compared with 27 per cent the previous year.
She said the pandemic had been “traumatic” for nurses and particularly those who had returned to the profession after retiring to help with the effort.
“It’s a very, very tough place for those working in that sector,” said Fyffe.
Fyffe added that the pandemic had proven the need to move away from targets and move towards outcomes and said it has taught the health service about the way it needs to work in the future.
Kenryck Lloyd-Jones, Public Affairs and Policy Manager for Scotland, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Scotland agreed, saying the use of virtual care in particular had often worked well.
“This pandemic will have changed the way healthcare is delivered and that’s here no to stay,” he said. “There are many reasons to celebrate that because it can be the solution in certain circumstances.”
Lloyd-Jones added: “We have been in a process of looking at transforming primary care and that has to continue. Rather than resetting we just have to renew that agenda.”