NHS workers in England have been “reduced to tears” by staff shortages caused by the Omicron variant of coronavirus, the Royal College of Nursing has said.
RCN director for England Patricia Marquis said the Government needs to be “honest” with the public about the pressure being put on the health service, adding that patient care is being impacted.
“Pressures are coming at staff from all angles, and it is important government is honest with the public about the state the NHS and social care is in at the moment as well as give an honest assessment as to why we are not able to consider other restrictions, either in terms of public health or on what the NHS can actually deliver,” she said.
“Many nursing staff are going into work with only half the number of staff that are needed but with still the same number of patients to look after.
“They are being spread thinner and thinner and we are hearing of many being reduced to tears because they are not able to deliver the care to their patients.”
The statement comes as many public services resort to emergency plans to mitigate shortages, with some hospital trusts declaring critical incidents, where priority services may be under threat.
A union representative at an NHS hospital trust in South Yorkshire said staff in their area are experiencing “burnout” due to the lack of personnel.
The NHS worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said the situation is worse “in terms of absences” than in January 2021.
“People are getting their heads down and getting on with the job but there is also a lot of burnout,” they said.
“I worry about the longer-term mental impact of staff having gone through so much pressure for such a long period of time too.”
They also raised concern about plans that will make vaccines mandatory for frontline health and social care workers from April 1.
“The vaccine mandate could make staffing issues worse too, so it’s just one thing on top of another really,” they added.