Whilst we all hope that nothing as sudden and shocking as Covid-19 will transform the health and social care sector in the year ahead, new variants, service delays and fundamental changes to ways of working will present additional difficulties – and possible opportunities – for nurses in the next 12 months.
Generate’s payroll and contractor management specialists reveal the main challenges that healthcare professionals can anticipate and prepare for in the coming year.
How the Role of Nursing Will Change in 2022
1. Covid-19 After Effects – Care Delays and Permanent Shift in Focus
In addition to the unprecedented levels of seriously ill patients and a baptism of fire fighting an unknown contagious disease, Covid-19 caused a variety of delays to life-changing and life-saving services including:
- 6 million fewer people completed elective care pathways between January 2020 and July 2021
- The elective care waiting list has risen to its highest ever recorded levels
- 40,000 people saw their cancer treatment delayed or cancelled
- Multiple thousands of major illnesses are thought to have been missed in 2020 alone, leading to a knock-on effect of higher screening demand, later diagnosis and less effective treatment
- Vulnerable and low-income individuals were affected by greater levels of delays and cancellations than affluent peers, meaning that hospitals in more deprived and regional areas are likely to experience significantly higher demand in the coming year.
The coronavirus pandemic is also responsible for highlighting the need to prioritise mental health across the public sector. The lasting impacts of delays to diagnosis and treatment will also apply to mental health, and the isolation, grief and financial difficulties experienced by millions will require the NHS to prioritise mental wellbeing on a much more equal footing to physical health.
The additional shifts and traumatic events of the pandemic have driven up stress and mental illness in hospital and care home staff. In 2021 half of all nurses reported moderate to high stress levels, with over 60% reporting regular emotional exhaustion. In 2022 healthcare professionals will need to prioritise their mental health as much as possible, ensuring enough sleep, relaxation time and a good support system outside of work, to prevent high workloads from affecting their mental and physical wellbeing.
With 1 in 4 nursing professionals having experienced severe depression in the past year, the National Health Service will increasingly step up to offer greater help. The NHS is allocating £15million to mental health support services for staff, rolling out wellbeing and psychological training and establishing strong connections between critical care workers and mental wellbeing providers. Better recognition of mental wellbeing, and the resources to help one’s self, colleagues and patients will represent one positive outcome from the pandemic.
2. Even Greater Workload
Before the pandemic, the National Health Service already experienced a shortage of 50,000 nurses – around 8% of the number of nurses practicing in the UK overall. Despite growing numbers of nursing applications, healthcare will remain understaffed in 2022.
One in seven nurses and more than one in five doctors identify as a nationality other than British. Although healthcare roles are included on the UK’s official Shortage Occupation List, the NHS is finding it increasingly difficult to recruit qualified professionals after Brexit. In the three years following the UK referendum vote alone, 5,000 EU nationals left the NHS, and in the years since, the number of European applicants fell by 87%.
The next year ahead will see many nursing teams having to manage with fewer members of qualified staff, which could mean:
- Delays to the support patients receive
- Covering the basic, repetitive duties of absent or sick assistant workers, therefore missing out on more proactive assessment and monitoring of patients
- Hasty or procrastinated decision-making in the absence of superior guidance
- More usage of agency and locum professionals who are unfamiliar with patients and hospital procedures, increasing admin, communication and training burdens
- Less one-on-one communication and time spent with patients who lack contact with other people
- The possibility of increased risk of patient death due to lack of monitoring and assessment.
3. Expanding Social Care Responsibilities
The health and economic impacts of Covid-19, combined with long-established staff and funding shortages, have expanded the list of nurses’ responsibilities and seen the health and social care sectors overlap.
National lockdowns and school closures highlighted the increased challenges of adults and children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and vulnerable people, such as those struggling with addiction or long-term mental health issues, of all ages and backgrounds. Furlough, redundancies, cancelled work contracts and the lasting effects of austerity have impacted directly on families across the country. 31% of British children now live in poverty, and the poverty rate amongst working households is now at its highest ever rate. The role of all healthcare professionals in the lives of each patient and their families has changed dramatically.
The rapidly ageing population is knitting the roles of health and social care ever more tightly together. The percentage of UK individuals aged 65 or over is growing more than four times as fast as the UK population as a whole. A mismatch in the supply and demand of social care professionals will hit 1million by 2025. With no available alternative, healthcare professionals will increasingly pick up social care duties to prevent patients from unnecessarily long hospital stays, bed blocking and repeat admissions due to problems such as neglect or malnutrition not being spotted by regular social worker visits.
The additional social care requirements will see increased responsibilities for nursing professionals including:
- Higher workloads
- Increased admin
- Continuous communication with social workers and local authorities
- Balancing short-term urgent solutions with longer-term care pathways to prevent hospital admissions
- Training to incorporate additional social care needs including more proactive assessment for signs of neglect and abuse in vulnerable adults and children
- More support for patient families.
Meet Your Healthcare Challenges in 2022
Whilst the above issues are not easily solved, help with tax, payroll, compliance and admin can dramatically reduce stress levels and make a huge difference to your working life. Generate have helped thousands of nursing professionals – find out how we could help you.
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