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Importance of the UK's Winter Resilience Plan for Healthcare Workers

Importance of the UK's cold weather and Winter Resilience Plan

Winter follows on the heels of an extremely busy summer

Winter follows on the heels of an extremely busy summer, and it is time for National Health Service (NHS) employees to gear up. The United Kingdom (UK) is expected to have the harshest winter this year, according to officials, and the NHS is preparing "war rooms" to fight for the season. Currently, the UK is facing more than a "twindemic" due to the flu, COVID, the climate crisis, and a record number of job vacancies in the NHS.
England's health leaders have developed "winter resilience plans." These plans include: 1) new system control centres to manage demand and capacity across the country by constantly tracking beds and attendance; 2) building "local respiratory infection hubs" to treat COVID-19, flu, acute bronchitis, and pneumonia patients outside of the hospital on the same day; 3) adding more hospital beds and 111 and 999 call handlers; and 4) providing people with access to health care around the clock.
While NHS employees face adversity, their health and well-being must be prioritised. The healthcare staff will not be able to provide their best or most productive results unless and until they are healthy. In light of this, the NHS has issued a guide titled Winter workforce preparedness to assist healthcare workers in beating the odds. Given below is the action plan:

1. Leadership, engagement, and the role of well-being guardians:

Almost every NHS Trust has appointed a board-level wellbeing guardian, and integrated care boards are taking on the role as well. Wellbeing guardians help to prioritise the health and well-being of healthcare workers. They also ensure that a preventive approach is delivered in a systematic and monitored manner, as health and well-being are linked to attendance, retention, and high-quality patient care. Leaders in health and well-being must constantly adapt their plans to meet the needs of the moment to take care of healthcare workers' needs.

2. Prioritize health and wellness conversations and opportunities for peer support:

Ensure that all healthcare workers have access to health and well-being conversations, and encourage them to seek help for their needs and concerns. Ideally, these would be with their manager or a trusted colleague, such as a health and wellbeing champion, trade union representative, professional body, or staff network representative. Organizations should include these health and wellness conversation programmes in their policies.
National guidance and support on conversation is available, as is access to a free training programme that Support Line managers can use to hold safe and effective health and wellbeing conversations. It is expected that the organisation will refer healthcare workers to national well-being resources as well as local services such as occupational health and employee assistance programmes (EAP).
Financial well-being support is also available. Healthcare workers should also be encouraged to talk to their co-workers and peers about their worries.

3. Safeguard rest breaks and provide high-quality rest areas:

Rest breaks enable nursing staff during a busy shift to refocus and adjust their perspective. Prioritize rest breaks as an essential part of the team's shift and encourage healthcare workers to use the rest areas. Ensure that healthcare workers have access to amenities such as water, toilets, and changing areas, as well as areas to store and heat food. Make additional accommodations for healthcare workers who work night shifts. Encourage healthcare workers to take annual leave and consider about flexible shift arrangements for nursing staff.

4. Invest in reflective practise and study leave:

Reflective practise is a helpful method of assisting staff in analysing their experiences and actions. Allow healthcare staff time to reflect and discuss their experiences, as well as time for team learning, ideally away from immediate clinical or work pressures. Ensure that those who have been trained in reflective practise are given time to use their skills to help others. Encourage and assist colleagues in taking study leave.

5. Provide assistance with occupational health and wellness services:

The health leaders should make sure that occupational health and wellbeing service professionals are available in the organisation to provide expert support, advice, and insights that can be used to inform the health and wellbeing approach to nursing staff. Work with occupational health and wellbeing services and leaders to develop an organizationally-led, preventive approach and a partnership that contributes to the creation of a sustainable health and wellbeing culture. Ensure that healthcare workers have the necessary support, resources, and funding to deal with an increasing caseload in most organisations.

6. Assisting healthcare workers in avoiding flu, COVID-19, and respiratory illnesses:

Healthcare leaders and managers must ensure that all nursing staff is adequately protected against respiratory illnesses, the flu, and COVID-19. Encourage healthcare workers to get COVID-19 and flu vaccinations. Make sure that healthcare workers have access to the right PPE and that the most recent COVID-19 testing guidelines are followed.
Unfair pay for nursing staff, combined with an overwhelming workload, was already straining the healthcare workforce. As winter approaches, the number of COVID-19 cases is expected to rise, putting the issue on hold once more. A possible mass strike by healthcare workers over pay this winter will exacerbate the situation. The UK government needs to act quickly to prevent repercussions from happening to patients who desperately need care.
The Nurses Group considers our healthcare workers and nursing staff as valuable assets, and we always follow the NHS's rules and guidelines for protecting our workforce. We make certain that our healthcare workers feel safe and secure at work and are not exploited.

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