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NHS bosses demand extra support for female health and care staff at risk of coronavirus ‘burnout’

The NHS Confederation has warned staff are facing burnout

2 min read

NHS bosses have called on the government to provide extra support to female health and care staff impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

The NHS Confederation, which represents health services in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, warned that female staff could be forced to leave their jobs due to the additional "stress and exhaustion" brought on by the pandemic.

A new survey from the group found almost three quarters (72%) of respondents, who included managers, nurses, doctors and administrative staff, had reported a greater negative impact on their emotional wellbeing since the start of the outbreak, with a further 52% saying their physical health had suffered.

The study also found that female staff, who make up more than three quarters of the NHS workforce, had taken on an average of 11.2 hours each week of additional non-work caring responsibilities, despite only reducing their work hours by 1.44 hours to compensate.

The figures come just weeks after Health Secretary Matt Hancock unveiled a new 'NHS People Plan' which he has promised will put staff welfare "at its heart" by expanding flexible working practices and tracking morale.

But the NHS Confederation warned that failing to quickly address the issue could lead to "intensifying burnout" as the health service looks to resume patient services such as non-urgent operations.

One respondent to the survey said: "I am exhausted. I can't buy food on my day off as I want to hide under the covers and sleep.

"I can't face being jolly and excited for my children, who are scared Mummy is going to die of Covid."

Samantha Allen, chair of the NHS Confederation's Health and Care Women Leaders Network, said: "The results of this survey hammer home the wide-ranging toll that the pandemic has had on the health and wellbeing of female health and care workers so far and how the level of pressure and expectation of self-sacrifice is not sustainable, especially as patient services across the NHS continue to resume ahead of winter."

She added: "Women make up more than three-quarters of the NHS workforce, so we cannot afford to let these issues be ignored. 

"Now more than ever, women across health and care must have access to the right support so that we can minimise the risk of burnout, protect their well being and make sure they are mentally and physically healthy enough to continue to care for and support our communities."

The Department for Health and Social Care have been approached for comment.

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