Many care home workers made personal sacrifices to protect residents during the Covid pandemic, according to new research.
Academics at the University of Highlands and Islands (UHI) interviewed dozens of care home staff about their experiences of working over the last two years.
Michelle Beattie, senior lecturer at UHI, who led the study, said the research team was struck by how staff supported each other.
She said: “They felt like it was a war against the pandemic. There was a sense of ‘we need to pull together and face this together.
“You read about that sense of camaraderie in the military and people deploying to war but not that much in healthcare. None of us had seen that before in any previous work.”
Repsonses from workers included testimonies explaining the personal sacrifices staff had made to keep residents and families safe. Some had even moved out of their own homes to reduce the chance of passing the virus to care home residents.
Respondents to the study described the difficulties of being under scrutiny from the public, the media, and health inspectors whilst dealing with outbreaks of Covid and staff absences.
They told of the “unreasonable and unrealistic” demands on them from inspectors, with one claiming they would find themself “sneaking off to the toilet to have a wee cry”.
One respondent explained their frustration with the public and media focus on the NHS: “Where everybody flocked, again, to the NHS to support and volunteer and the nurse banks flourished, we were again in the dark going ‘Hello, can somebody come and help us?’”
A third of all Covid deaths happened in care homes, with the majority taking place in the early months of the pandemic when there was little testing carried out and dozens of hospital patients with the virus were moved to care homes.
Lady Poole QC, Senator of the College of Justice of Scotland, will lead a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.
It will identify lessons to be learned and recommendations for reform.
Moral obligation to provide support to workers
The study took place with academics gathering information from 52 workers from 26 of Balhousie Care Group’s homes.
Lindsay Dingwall, co-author of the study and clinical care quality manager at Balhousie Care Group has thanked staff members who took part in the research.
She said: “As emotional and raw as this study was for our respondents and the researchers, it was hugely important to be part of it.
“For the sake of our employees and residents, and in honour of everyone who has lost a life in the last two years, we wanted to help document not only what care workers have gone through, but also their dedication to their jobs. ”
The study concluded that there is a moral obligation to provide psychological support to workers.
Speaking to the Sunday Post, Social Care Minister Kevin Stewart said: “We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our nation’s carers for their commitment demonstrated throughout the pandemic.
“We have made £12 million available to support the wellbeing of the workforce.”