Staff On Terminal Covid Ward Were ‘Denied Ppe’

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Hospital workers demonstrate against lack of PPE – NHS staff in Nottingham were denied access to PPE, Unison claim, even though they were working with terminally ill Covid-19 patients

STAFF working on a ward for terminal coronavirus patients were denied Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) despite having to bag up 185 bodies in just 19 weeks, their union Unison has alleged.

Unison have raised a formal grievance with the Trust that deals with Nottingham Queen’s Medical Centre, further alleging that staff were being ‘bullied while caring for dying coronavirus patients’.

Unison says too that NHS staff were not adequately trained after volunteering to work on the end-of-life coronavirus ward at the Queen’s Medical Centre.

Unison’s collective grievance has been filed on behalf of more than 20 members of staff who voluntarily transferred from ward C4 to ward F22, the ward which dealt with dying coronavirus patients. One member of staff, who asked to remain anonymous, said colleagues on the ward had to bag 185 dead patients in just 19 weeks, with no prior training.

Afterwards, without support, they had to Facetime their bereaved family members who had not been allowed in to see their sick relatives.

They said: ‘We were caring for people as they died, using our own phones to Facetime their families, bagging their bodies and then dealing with their relatives. It was incredibly stressful.

‘Normally, the palliative care team who deal with end-of-life patients handle 200 deaths each year – we dealt with 185 in just 19 weeks.

‘People doing that job normally receive high levels of training and support because of the stress. We had none of that.’

Unison said that when staff raised their concerns with managers, they were subjected to ‘horrendous bullying, intimidation, harassment, discrimination and victimisation.’

A separate member of staff, who also asked not to be named, added: ‘When we raised concerns, we started being bullied by the managers.

‘There was a sickness board with everyone’s individual illnesses on display in the break room to intimidate you into coming in, however ill you were.

‘If you went sick, you were taken into a meeting and your sickness record was discussed, going back up to 16 years.’

Unison says some staff members spoke of being shouted at openly in the ward, while others claim to have been denied access to personal protective equipment (PPE) which they said was kept locked in an office.

The union’s regional officer for the East Midlands, Dave Ratchford, said: ‘We’re talking about a very high-performing team who fell foul of a culture that permits bullying and fails to address it.

‘This is completely unacceptable and Unison is raising a formal grievance to address their concerns immediately. Some staff have worked here for 20 years and are now off sick with stress.

‘Staff were told their lives would be made hell for complaining. No one should be bullied at work and least of all those who put their families on hold and their lives on the line for the rest of us.

‘There’s a catalogue of intolerable behaviour being reported by staff and the trust must resolve this speedily.’