Exhausted NHS Highland nurses urged to cover extra shifts as pandemic outbreak takes its toll

Exhausted nursing staff are under pressure to give up their downtime to cover overtime at Raigmore Hospital as the pandemic continues to take its toll.

Staff at the region’s biggest hospital are under strain, with rising Covid-19 cases putting added pressure.

It prompted NHS Highland to take the unusual step of appealing on social media for nurses to give up their own time to return to work on Sundays and Mondays.

Gillian Tait, Senior NCR Officer at NHS Highland, said: “The increase in Covid-related absences for Raigmore staff is a significant concern.

“NHS Highland nursing staff are under pressure due to staff absences as well as patients unable to be discharged and an increase in Covid hospital admissions.

“This latest call from NHS Highland indicates how difficult things have become.

“Nursing staff are exhausted and worn down by two years of relentless pressure, health authorities must do everything possible to support the workforce and prevent nursing staff from dispersing.

“This support must include ensuring staff working with Covid patients have access to the highest levels of PPE to reduce transmission.”

She added: “In addition to Covid absences, NHS Highland is also struggling with near record nursing vacancies with almost one in ten nursing vacancies unfilled.

“The Scottish Government must tackle staff recruitment and retention by funding a fair pay rise and implementing safe staffing legislation.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Highland said: “NHS Highland is currently seeing levels of Covid in the highest rates across Scotland, which is challenging for a council with such a wide geographical footprint.

“We use every opportunity available to help our colleagues provide safe and effective care for our patients and our communities.

“We are taking all necessary steps to support the well-being and well-being of our staff during this time.”

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “With record vacancies across the country, I am not surprised that our heroic nursing staff are exhausted and beyond breaking point.

“Working under such pressure and having to cover the absences of colleagues leads to burnout and the obligation to take time off to recuperate.”

Wilma Brown, chair of Unison Scotland’s health committee, said the NHS was running on empty.

“Our nurses, porters, medical assistants and other NHS staff from Scottish health boards have told us of their growing anxiety about staff shortages and concerns about the impact of long treatment delays on patients.

“Employers use desperate measures to deal with desperate times. These include chasing sick staff to come back sooner, ordering those on wards to send patients home more quickly and asking exhausted staff to cancel their annual leave, as well than taking additional shifts as well.

“The pandemic has shown what happens when too few staff try to do the work of many – we end up with a demoralized, overworked and burnt-out workforce. The Scottish Government must act now, pay NHS staff the wages they deserve and do everything possible to resolve this damaging crisis.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are extremely grateful for the incredible efforts of all our NHS and social care staff during the pandemic. The creation of new positions is an essential part of the expansion of the labor force. New positions are expected as we strive to rapidly increase our workforce.

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