For many of us, the pandemic has changed our working lives beyond recognition. You may be working directly with people who have COVID-19, in the community or in hospital, or providing essential health and social care services to people who are unwell or vulnerable in other ways. You may be trying to do this from home or working in personal protective equipment.
While you work to support other people during this difficult time, here are some of the questions you might be asking:
One of the most challenging things about COVID-19 is not knowing whether you have the infection or not, so testing should be able to help with the uncertainty of this. Please be aware that tests are only accurate if you have COVID-19 symptoms, so you should get tested within the first 3 days of symptoms appearing, although testing is effective until day 5.
Here’s a message with up-to-date advice from the Scottish Government on testing:
The priority for NHS laboratory testing capacity continues to be for patients requiring hospital admission, for staff and residents in care homes, for surveillance, and enabling health and social care workers to return to work when safe. Anyone who has symptoms of Covid-19 should now contact the NHS to arrange to be tested – either online at NHS Inform, or by calling 0800 028 2816. The NHS Inform website includes information on how health and social care workers, and other key workers, can access testing through a simple and easy to use guide which can be found here.
To find out more about COVID-19 testing, including who is eligible for a test, when to test, and how to get tested, click here.
Having access to the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is fundamental to personal safety and infection control. It’s also essential that staff can access training in its proper use.
Here is a message with up-to-date advice from the Scottish Government on PPE:
The safety of all frontline staff is an absolute priority, and efforts are continuously looking to improve the supply and distribution of PPE so that supplies needed continue to be delivered in the face of unprecedented demand across the health and social care system. Health Protection Scotland has published revised guidance for all health and social care staff on when – and how – PPE should be used.
NHS: Every NHS Board has an internal escalation process for clinical staff, dedicated to raising issues regarding access to PPE formally through internal line management and clinical leadership structures.
In addition, every NHS Board has a single point of contact (SPOC) who is responsible for managing PPE supply in their organisation. The SPOC’s role is to resolve issues and concerns; they should be notified if the normal process is not working well.
If you are aware of any specific instances of those processes proving ineffective, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and staff will raise this with the relevant SPOC.
Social Care: If you work in a social care service (in either the private, third or public sector) and you have concerns about PPE, you should raise this with your manager in the first instance. If your concerns aren’t addressed, you can contact your trade union and ask them to help you. There is also helpful information on the Care Inspectorate website for social care and social work employees and social work students on how to raise a concern in your workplace. Advice on how to get help from Scottish Government with accessing PPE is set out below:
The supply of PPE for social care services is primarily the responsibility of the social care provider organisation. They are expected to make contingency plans, including for supplies, as part of normal planning. This is to ensure they are prepared for changes in demand or circumstances.
However, given the exceptional circumstances of this pandemic and the unprecedented demand for PPE, Scottish Government has set up national support for PPE in addition to normal supply routes to ensure that staff have what they need and that they and the people they support have the necessary protection.
Local PPE Hubs that were established in Health and Social Care Partnership areas early on in the pandemic are now supporting the whole sector with all of its PPE needs where normal supply routes have failed. These Hubs are also supporting unpaid carers and social care Personal Assistants with their PPE needs.
This is a significant change from how the Hubs have been operating so far, and they are receiving enhanced supplies from NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) to meet the increased demand. People and organisations providing social care services will not be restricted to a pre-determined allocation of supplies, and supplies are not limited to suspected/confirmed or shielding cases.
Therefore, if you have already tried to access your Hub or the NHS NSS Social Care Triage helpline in the past few weeks and have not been able to access supplies – note that the process has changed and will hopefully better meet your needs.
Wearing PPE: There’s a helpful video produced by NHS Education for Scotland that describes the most common problems associated with PPE and takes you through the dos and don’ts, providing practical examples of when PPE should and should not be worn. The video also demonstrates the correct procedure for donning and removing PPE in the context of acute, community and care settings.
You can also access Health Protection Scotland’s National Infection Prevention and Control Manual (NIPCM) which has guidance on the use of Personal Protective Equipment
Laundering uniforms: The Scottish Government advice is as follows: Provided appropriate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is used in accordance with the “UK Infection Prevention and Control Guidance for COVID -19” there is no evidence that uniforms pose any risk to staff or others.
Evidence is emerging that suggests that people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds may be disproportionately affected by COVID-19, although further research is underway that will help us understand more about the impact of COVID-19 on people from all minority ethnic communities.
If you are from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background and are feeling anxious, discuss with your line manager how best to protect yourself and your family during this period. You’re wellbeing is what’s important. Your line manager should discuss your individual concerns sensitively, hear your views, act on your concerns and support you. This may involve them seeking further information for you from occupational health and signposting you to appropriate practical support. But they should always seek to follow best practice and the Scottish Government interim guidance published on 21 May, which you can access here.
This guidance states that all Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff with underlying health conditions and disabilities, who are over 70, or who are pregnant, should be individually risk assessed and have appropriate reasonable workplace adjustments put in place depending on the outcome of the risk assessment. These adjustments might include placing you in green rather than red zones, into non-patient facing roles, or asking you to work from home, where this is possible.
Once the results of further research and review on ethnicity and COVID-19 are published, the Scottish Government will consider any changes that need to be made to this guidance, based on any new clinical evidence.
If you’re living with a disability and are looking for advice and resources relating to COVID-19, you’ll find a range of information at the Disability Information Scotland website. There is also a dedicated helpline available on 0300 323 9961. If you’re disabled and have questions about the current “shielding” arrangements, the latest advice from the Scottish Government can be found here. If you’re not shielding, but need help accessing services such as essential food, medication or emotional support, there’s also a helpline available on 0800 111 4000, open 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.
If you’re working from home and need adjustments such as assistive technology, some companies are offering support that includes free help from people trained in disability and adjustments. A list of what technology companies have to offer in this respect can be found here.
Tips from a Long-Term Home Worker provides a refreshingly realistic view of what it’s like to work from home. You may also want to check out the Voices of Covid series, written by disabled people for disabled people, sharing stories and experiences during the COVID-19 lockdown.
When you’re working flat out, it’s easy to lose sight of the things that will get you through this. So try to remember the basics: eat, drink, rest, and keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues. By now many of you will have areas set aside within your workplace where you can take a break, get something to eat and drink, and reconnect with colleagues. Please use these, as you’ll need physical as well as emotional nourishment in the weeks and months to come. Some of the resources available here should also help.
You can read more about how to cope with fatigue here.
Your managers will need to look out for you too by working out realistic rotas, making sure you get some down time and creating opportunities for you to connect with colleagues. If you’re a manager, we’ve put together some resources to help you do this.
Information on transport offers by businesses and community organisations and a system for accessing them at local level is currently under consideration. We’ll upload further information on this as soon as we have it.
The transport situation is dynamic and fast-moving, so if you need to use public transport to get to work you’ll need to
keep yourself up-to-date by checking transport links regularly:
If you need to take your car to work, most health boards are making it easier to park by temporarily relaxing parking restrictions on sites with managed car parking services. NCP are also offering free parking during the lockdown period and some local councils have confirmed that parking charges in the vicinity of hospitals have ceased as a part of short
term measures in the current circumstances. Please note, however, that enforcement will still take place for yellow line, obstructive or dangerous parking practices. Restrictions relating to disabled bays will also continue to be enforced.
Some frontline staff are facing difficult decisions about moving out of their homes in order to protect family members, particularly those who are most vulnerable. Emergency accommodation is currently available to NHS staff if your skills are clinically essential and you can’t live at home due to the following reasons: you have difficulty getting to or from work due to increased distance or reduced public transport; you’re shielding a high risk individual(s) at home; or there’s a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 individual at home.
The process for applying for accommodation varies across Boards, so please see your local intranet site for details. A number of local hotels and accommodation services have also expressed support and interest in offering places for NHS staff between shifts or available for on-call support. Information regarding these offers can also be accessed via your local staff support intranet pages.
For many of you, working life will have changed beyond recognition and you’ll be facing new challenges on a daily basis. If it’s the first time you’re working from home, the chances are you’ll be getting to grips with unfamiliar technology, setting up a work station, establishing a new routine, and in some cases juggling the multiple demands of work and child care. Whatever your situation, these top tips should help:
Communicate often with colleagues and teams.
Set clear rules and boundaries, particularly with regard to social media, TV, family and friends.
Get dressed, so that you feel like you’re going to work.
Take regular breaks, at least every couple of hours.
Eat well and keep energised throughout the day, without resorting to caffeine or sugar.
Get outside for a little exercise.
Create a routine and plan big or difficult tasks for when you have the energy for them.
Speak up and let your line manager or colleagues know if you need support.
For more help with home and remote working, try this site.
“My top tip is have your videoconference on mute!”
If you’re a PA you’ll be in a different position to many in the social care workforce because the person you provide care for is also your employer. We’ve provided some information and advice for PA employers on the “Information for managers and employers” section of this website. You need to know that you have the same employment rights as other people and this must be respected at all times. It’s important that you feel valued and know what is expected of you during these challenging times.
It may seem that taking care of your mental health and wellbeing comes way down the priority list of things to do at the moment, but please look after yourselves too. You can find tips on how to do this on the “Coping and Self Care” page of this website and you can also find information on where to access support from the “Find Help” page. Scottish Government guidance on accessing PPE is available by clicking here.
There are also several services that can provide advice and assistance to you or your employer on the specific issues facing PAs:
It’s not surprising that our patients and clients feel anxious at the moment, particularly if they’re unwell or are isolated from their family and friends. To make it even harder, many of the things we would normally do to help calm and reassure people, for example using facial expression or physical touch, aren’t possible right now due to PPE or social distancing. But in spite of this you can still do what comes naturally, as you’ve been supporting people throughout your whole career and the same skills can be put to use here.
Try to act in a calm and friendly way, communicate clearly and patiently, and remember always to give your name. Allow people time to voice their concerns and fears, and listen attentively if you can. Normalise their experience without making light of it, and remind them that feelings of fear, uncertainty and vulnerability are all normal. If people are experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety and panic, explain that these are part of our body’s normal response to threat, and that they’re not dangerous and will pass. Some basic anxiety management techniques such as breathing and grounding exercises can also work well, so have a look at the information we’ve put together for you here.
If you’re supporting people with a learning disability or communication difficulty, a range of free picture stories and illustrated guides have been developed by the charity Beyond Words and are available here.
Bereavement is difficult in any situation but current circumstances are making it even harder as people are cut off from their usual support networks, denied the chance to say goodbye to loved ones, and prevented from observing the cultural practices and traditions that normally help us to deal with death. As a staff member supporting people at the end of life, you may also notice feelings of your own being stirred up, reminding you of past losses or causing you to worry about losing the people you love.
To help you provide the best possible support to people at the end of life, NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and Support Around Dying (SAD) have put together a set of resources for staff working across all health and social care settings.
NES have also developed a resource for staff, teams and managers who have experienced the death of a colleague during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find this resource here: Experiencing the death of a colleague and a print-friendly version here.
Additional resources relating to bereavement in the workplace can be accessed here. Some teaching resources that may also be helpful include: Living with Death and Talking and being with people who are bereaved. If you’re caring for someone with a learning disability or communication difficulty, a range of free picture stories and illustrated guides have been developed by the charity Beyond Words, including an illustrated resource on how to respond when somebody dies from Coronavirus, and coping with grief and bereavement. These resources are available here.
Several bereavement charities and organisations are also offering guidance, including advice on what to say when someone is grieving, and help with your own difficult feelings. The bereavement care charity CRUSE has helpful guidance on its website. PETAL (People Experiencing Trauma and Loss) is also offering bereavement counselling to anyone bereaved by COVID-19. They can be reached by phone on 01698 324 502 or by email: email@example.com. More information is on the PETAL website here.
The Childhood Bereavement Network also offers guidance on how to support a bereaved child or young person, or how to say goodbye when normal funeral arrangements are not possible.
In building this website we have come across lots of helpful resources and guidance for staff working across health and social care during the pandemic. This list is not exhaustive so please get in touch if you know of other materials people will find helpful.
Please also look at the Is it Normal? section for more advice on common reactions to stress and distress.
General Advice: Talking with distressed people by phone
Staff working in health settings
Staff working in care settings
Supporting families affected by domestic violence: Safe and Together COVID19: a quick guide
Supporting older people: COVID-19 Looking after your wellbeing
Bereavement and end of life care
The Wellbeing College (Health in Mind) Recognising and understanding loss
There are 7 webinars planned: Cognitive Therapy for PTSD, Delivering safe pyschological wellbeing practitioner interventions, Treating Social Anxiety Disorder, Behavioural Activation, Traumatic Grief interventions, Delivery of OCD treatment, Delivery of Health Anxiety interventions, and Managing Long Term Condition interventions.
You can find the link on the NES Taking care of other people page where you can set up a TURAS account to access them