The latest issue of Nursing Practice looks at how the demands of the lengthy Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a huge backlog of care in the UK, which could take years to clear.
While the national focus is most often on workload stresses in secondary care, teams in primary care – including nursing staff - are also facing significant problems. An anonymous nurse from London, also a PCN director, told Nursing in Practice they were annoyed that the situation in general practice wasn’t being highlighted as much, saying: ‘Not only are we dealing with our own backlog, but the fallout from secondary care as well.’
To make matters worse, Bradford-based practice nurse Naomi Berry is concerned that workload in general practice is now so high that many nurses have been suffering burnout. She shared that she has was working weekends at another practice giving vaccinations, alongside her usual work. ‘And yet patients don’t seem to understand how busy we are,’ she says.
Despite this, the challenges of Covid-19 have been met with swift action from nurses and their colleagues to improve access for patients, provide more efficient care, and to make every contact count.
Practice nurses across the country have been working hard with limited resources to improve patient access – for example, to make every face-to-face contact more efficient, as well as to support patients to access care remotely by phone or video. Ms Berry commented: ‘We’ve changed clinics around to fit more people in, created more appointments for them; changed timings so it’s easier for them.’
Practice nurses have been focusing on people with long-term conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, where usual arrangements for care have been disrupted by the pandemic. Nurse-led cervical screening has been in focus, amid the backdrop of current concerns about delayed cancer diagnosis.
Kat Darby-Walsh, nurse and clinical director of Yeovil PCN, described how a young adults diabetes clinic set up to allow young adults to access care, including mental health support and social prescribing.
The Nursing in Practice team have also been working to connect with hard-to-reach groups during the pandemic. ‘There’s a load of people out there who need support and may not have been seen during lockdown. Nurses are on the frontline of that,’ she said.
With no immediate end in sight to extra work and challenges posed by Covid, we continue to applaud the work being done by practice and community nurses around the UK.