Blog: Coronavirus

Published on 21 March 2020

Andrea Sutcliffe's latest blog on the Coronavirus pandemic

I’ve never known 10 days like it. Since the World Health Organisation officially declared the Covid19 pandemic on 11 March, life has changed beyond all recognition. The news from abroad and the daily toll of cases and deaths reminds us why the measures now in place are so important. It’s heart breaking for all affected, their families and friends.

Nurses, midwives, nursing associates and their colleagues across health and social care are at the forefront of the UK response to the Coronavirus pandemic. My admiration for them knows no bounds and like any other citizen, I am truly grateful.

We need you!

We need nursing and midwifery skills, expertise and compassion more than ever before. We already had vacancies and nurses, midwives and nursing associates will be affected like the rest of us by Covid19 – they may become ill, have to self-isolate or have caring responsibilities. So at the point of greatest need now and in the months to come, we could struggle to have enough people to provide all the care necessary.

That’s why the government and other national bodies are focused on supporting as many nurses, midwives and nursing associates as possible to remain in or return to work. I welcome the guidance that designates them as critical to the Covid-19 response which means their children can stay in school. It’s also important that there is increased testing for frontline staff in health and social care and provision of the right personal protective equipment for everyone in high risk areas.

NMC plays its part

At the NMC we are focused on playing our part in the actions needed to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic. This means maintaining our important role in protecting the public and promoting public confidence in nursing and midwifery; ensuring we continue to register the right people swiftly; minimising burdens on busy professionals; and helping to expand the nursing and midwifery workforce at this time of crisis.

We have worked with our fellow regulators to provide reassurance and co-signed a letter to nurses, midwives and nursing associates with all four Chief Nursing Officers to thank them for their work and provide further reassurance. We’ve also established a Coronavirus information hub on the website and shared information about how we will work during this period. We are using our existing flexibility to extend the revalidation period by three months and seeking rules changes from the government to do more.

We have also reached agreement with the four UK Chief Nursing Officers, the Council of Deans, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives, Unison and Unite on measures we can take to expand the nursing and midwifery workforce.  Please read the joint statements and our Frequently Asked Questions for more information. 

Nursing and Midwifery Students

We’ve thought long and hard about our nursing and midwifery students. We know many want to help but they’re worried about what it means for them and we want to make sure they get the proper support. The joint statements cover options for students in the last six months of their programme and we should be able to provide more clarity for other students next week.

Team effort

Getting these agreements has taken a huge team effort across all of these organisations. We’ve sought to achieve an outcome that helps in these unprecedented times; is safe for all concerned including the public, patients, staff, students and prospective emergency registrants; balances risk; avoids unhelpful unintended consequences; is sensitive to different arrangements in all four countries; and can be communicated clearly. 

I’m so grateful to everyone for their time, hard work and dedication to get to this agreement, which has not always been easy.  I know people have been anxious and keen for clarity as quickly as possible. We’ve all wanted to respond to that but also wanted to make sure we could achieve consensus and a practical resolution of some pretty knotty issues. In reality we have concertinaed what would normally be months of development and discussion into a week. There’s more to do, and more issues to resolve but I’d ask for your understanding that everyone involved is doing their best to help the service.

I’d like to pay tribute to the NMC team who have been working flat out on so many aspects of these new arrangements. Huge thanks are due for their incredible creativity, saint-like patience, diligence, responsiveness and dogged tenacity. They’re going to need more of that in the future as we implement these plans and explore any other options to support the nursing and midwifery workforce.

Be kind and stay safe

I want to end by acknowledging the personal impact of this on us all. Whatever we are doing at a local or national level, we’ll all have our own worries – loved ones who may be at increased risk; planned hospital treatments delayed; holidays and celebrations cancelled; travel disrupted; anxiety about self-isolation and falling ill. 

Those worries take a personal toll when our professional lives are demanding so much. Let’s not forget that and make sure we take the time to be kind to ourselves and everyone we’re working with.

Thank you and please stay safe.

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