COVID-19 and the impact on carers

Fear of a “mental health crisis across the health and social care sector” in the UK has been expressed by Dr Talya Greene, the lead author of a Frontline COVID study report recently published in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology. This report, based on research conducted by University College London and the University of Haifa, Israel, is based on 1,194 health and social care workers from hospitals, nursing or care homes and other community settings across the UK in the period since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report’s headline statistics include that:

  • Almost three in five health and social care workers suffered a mental health problem during the first COVID-19 lockdown.
  • 57% of workers in these sectors were deemed to have a mental health disorder between 27 May and 23 July 2021.
  • 22% of the workforce met the criteria for PTSD, with 47% suffering from clinically significant anxiety and 47% from depression.

Particular precipitating factors identified include:

  • Fears of infecting others with COVID-19.
  • Feelings of being unable to talk with managers on coping.
  • Feeling stigmatised about their role.
  • Concern of not having had reliable access to personal protective equipment.

A separate research exercise conducted by Unison carried out in October / November 2021 and involving 1,637 employees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland working in care homes, or helping people at home or in supported living has also recently reported that:

  • Almost all respondents (97%) said their employer is experiencing staffing shortages, with burnout, overwork and low pay among the main reasons cited.
  • 47% considered that shortages were having a negative impact on care.
  • 31% thought staffing levels dangerously low and getting worse.
  • 20% said that their workplace was managing despite the shortages.
  • 1% said their workplace was fine with no serious staffing shortages.
  • 67% were considering leaving the sector.

These figures, albeit based on limited samples, starkly illustrate the impact of COVID-19 on the care sector beyond the number of fatalities and infections. What it may mean in terms of claims from carers and those they care for is a wait and see…

Greg MacDougall, Partner, BLM

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