A COVID-19 pandemic will affect NHS Lothian’s services and community care staffing in three ways:
- Staff may become infected and this is likely to lead to an unprecedented level of sickness absence due to the pandemic. Some staff may have fears of infection if they do come to work. In addition, stress levels will be high and this may increase absence.
- Staff with caring responsibilities may be adversely affected by public health measures such as the closure of schools. As a result these staff may wish to stay at home to care for dependent children or other family members or due to bereavement.
- Additional problems may be caused where staff are unable to travel to work due to local transport problems such as lack of fuel or staff shortages.
In order to tackle this it will be necessary to take pragmatic decisions to sustain services. For example, NHS Lothian may need to redeploy staff into different roles or locations, ask them to work in new ways or call on professionals, who are not currently working, to assist if existing staff are absent.
NHS Lothian has also requested that Managers gather staff data which can give a more detailed picture to support resource planning. This information should be gathered locally and will supplement what information is held at present. All should operate within the framework of GDPR in the collection and use of this data.
Managers should capture this data which will include:
- Details of staff travel arrangements to and from work, as evidence suggests that staff with lengthy or complex journeys may be at high risk of not being able to attend due to transport problems.
- Staff should be asked whether they could provide lifts or be willing to share transport with colleagues. NHS Lothian will consider the benefits of assisting with transport and will look to have practical arrangements available when needed.
- Staff contact details for use in an emergency, especially mobile numbers should be updated on eESS or local records.
- Whether staff have dependants, especially school age children or other dependants, who they would need to care for. During a pandemic these staff may face major difficulties in attending work if, for example, schools are closed as a means of countering the pandemic.
- Staff who have skills that would be used during a pandemic. In particular managers should seek to identify those staff that have such skills but are not currently using them in their current work role ensuring that staff are working within their scope of practice and in line with their registration. These staff could be trained up in a relatively short period through refresher training. For example, most hospital medical staff will have generic skills in addition to their speciality and could be redeployed if their current work were to be suspended as may happen with elective surgery. Particular attention should be given to respiratory support skills and general skills in assessment. Most nursing staff should also be able to provide general nursing care.
- Managers should seek to build up for themselves as detailed a picture as possible of the skills of their staff and assess likely capacity and need for skills.
Staff who use devices and laptops for work should ensure that they take these home, along with any chargers each evening, in the event of the requirement for home or working in an alternative location.