A new IPPR/YouGov poll of UK healthcare professionals responding to the COVID-19 crisis reveals how deeply concerned they are about their safety. When asked if the government had done enough during the COVID-19 outbreak to prevent and test health and care workers for illness – for example, through Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) provision and priority diagnostic testing – 72 per cent said they have not.
In London, where the COVID-19 outbreak has been worst, over 80 per cent of healthcare professionals felt too little has been done.
The polling covered 996 healthcare professionals across the whole UK and in all roles – including nurses, midwives, doctors, allied health professionals and managers, amongst others.
Consequences for their health
The polling also reveals that, over the last eight weeks, one in three healthcare workers felt the crisis had already had a detrimental impact on their physical health. Nurses and doctors were amongst the most likely to report an impact on their physical health.
Over the weekend, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, confirmed at least 19 of the UK’s over 12,000 deaths were NHS staff – though indicated the true number might already be higher.
A separate IPPR/YouGov poll of the general public showed unanimous support for the government to take more radical steps to protect health and care professionals alike. Of those asked whether they would ‘support or oppose’ more support for the physical health of health and care staff, 96 per cent were supportive of more action. Just 2 per cent opposed.
Crisis on the caring frontline
PPE stocks are running dangerously low in some hospitals, with the Secretary of State suggesting the ‘precious resource’ may need to be rationed. However, a particular crisis has emerged in social care, according to IPPR. Reports of inadequate stock have been mounting, and despite well-known funding pressures, providers are being asked to front the cost of protective equipment for workers.
This comes as the Chief Medical Officer confirmed new COVID-19 outbreaks in 92 care homes in a 24-hour period on Easter Sunday. In homes run by just two of the UK’s largest care home providers, there have been 521 deaths.
IPPR calls on the UK government to now do everything it can to increase supply and improve distribution, of PPE across the whole health and care sector. They must also continue to provide greater access to priority diagnostic testing, according to the think tank.
Harry Quilter-Pinner, Senior Research Fellow and Head of IPPR’s Better Health and Care Programme at IPPR, said:
“Our heroic health and care staff are risking their own lives on a daily basis in order to save ours, but they cannot do this if they get sick themselves. The government must act now to ensure they have all the protective equipment they need to do their job properly and safely.
“There is a particular problem in the social care system where there are severe shortages of protective and testing equipment. For too long social care has been an afterthought. Care workers are risking their lives, just like NHS staff. At this time of crisis, we must finally deliver parity of esteem between our health and care systems.”
Chris Thomas, IPPR Health Research Fellow said:
“The bravery and commitment of healthcare professionals in the face of the COVID-19 crisis is clear to see. But the health workers we all rely on have been put at needless risk. That almost a third feel their health has declined in the last eight weeks is entirely unacceptable.”
“Just as you wouldn’t send an army into battle without body armour, hardworking health workers shouldn’t be forced to work without adequate protection.
“Our new polling shows they feel the government have failed in their duty to protect the UK’s most vital workers. The government must now do everything in their power to manufacture and distribute the right supplies to everyone working in health and care who needs them.”
The full results of the IPPR/YouGov poll will be published next week alongside new proposals for delivering care fit for our carers.