Through the visor: Reflecting on member experiences of the COVID-19 first wave
This report summarises the findings of a BGS member survey describing the experiences of working through the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. With respondents representing over twenty different professions working in acute, community and primary care, it is believed to be the only survey capturing the full breadth of multidisciplinary health professionals’ experiences caring for older people across the four nations. A follow-up report, Through the visor 2: Further learning from member experiences during COVID-19, is also now available.
Pressure on the workforce providing healthcare for older people is nothing new. We have known for many years that we are not training enough people to care for our rapidly ageing population and this is something that BGS has long been concerned about. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed workforce shortages and challenged healthcare professionals in ways we could never have imagined. A highly contagious virus that affects older people more than any other population group has meant that BGS members and their colleagues have faced situations beyond what they could have trained for or anticipated.
The toll that the pandemic has taken on the physical and mental health of our members is obvious."
|Dr Jennifer Burns||Dr Claire Copeland|
|BGS President||BGS Vice President for Workforce|
As the country moved out of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the British Geriatrics Society (BGS) issued a survey to its members with the ambition of understanding more about their experiences of working through the pandemic and what their concerns are going forward.
This is the only survey that has been carried out across the four nations of the UK which captures the views of the multidisciplinary team working with older people across various acute, community and primary care settings. The survey was carried out over a five week period in October and November 2020 and attracted 425 respondents.
Respondents told us about the practical experiences of working through the pandemic, including variable access to PPE and COVID testing for both staff and patients and the challenge of negotiating a pandemic where guidance was changing all the time. The pandemic shone a light on the challenges faced by care homes across the country, with often devastating consequences for care home residents and staff. Members told us about the difficulties faced by care homes and in particular the issues surrounding discharge of care home residents from acute hospitals back to care homes and the varying requirements for these patients to have negative COVID tests prior to discharge.
A majority of respondents reported that they were either redeployed during the pandemic or had changes made to their job plan or rota. This took a range of forms including working in a different setting, covering COVID wards, acting up to take on more responsibility or changing working hours to help respond to the pandemic. Many respondents commented that they were covering for sick colleagues. A significant number of people told us that they took time off during the first wave of the pandemic and a majority of those tested positive for COVID.
By far the most prominent theme to come out of the survey is the significant mental and emotional toll that working through the pandemic has had on BGS members and their families. Respondents told us about experiences of dealing with excessive death and the lack of escape from the pandemic outside of work as it engulfed society. Feelings of sadness and exhaustion were evident in many of the free text responses throughout the survey.
The survey was conducted towards the end of the first wave of the pandemic and respondents shared their concerns about preparing for the second wave and how BGS could support them through this period and beyond. The need for psychological and peer support for members came through strongly as did a need to provide support to trainees, in particular addressing missed training opportunities throughout the pandemic.
The actions BGS will take to address the issues coming up through the survey are set out at the end of each section of this report. We will also conduct a follow-up survey in late Spring 2021 to establish what has changed since the end of the first wave and which themes have persisted through the second wave.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the UK’s older population has been profound, with 90% of COVID-19 deaths occurring in those aged over 65. It stands to reason, therefore, that healthcare professionals caring for older people will be among those most affected by the pandemic.
In order to explore and capture the impact of the pandemic on healthcare professionals working with older people, the BGS conducted a survey of its members. We believe it to be the first survey to capture the views of professionals providing health and social care for older people across the four nations of the UK and across a range of settings including acute and community hospitals, primary care and care homes.
The survey was open to BGS members over a five-week period from 2 October 2020 to 9 November 2020. The survey was conducted through SurveyMonkey, which facilitated binary yes/no questions and analysis. Many of the questions also offered a free text option to allow people to expand on their answers and share their experiences.
We appreciate that, since conducting this survey, the situation with the pandemic has moved on, with many areas facing more challenging circumstances than they did during the first wave. These survey results are a reflection of the first wave of the pandemic. We intend to run another survey during Spring 2021 to gauge how things have changed for BGS members through the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report outlines what our members told us about their experience of working through the first wave of the pandemic and what the BGS intends to do to address some of the concerns raised. It must be acknowledged however, that the BGS is a small organisation with limited resources. In outlining how we are going to respond to the concerns raised in the survey, we have identified action we can take which is practical and helpful while also being realistic and within our means.
About our respondents
We received 425 replies from across the four nations of the UK along with a handful of responses from countries outside the UK. Out of the UK responses, 65% were from England, 27.6% from Scotland, 4.8% from Wales and 2.6% from Northern Ireland.
Results and analysis
To read the results and analysis of the survey, including direct quotes supplied by BGS members as well as actions for BGS, please download the PDF of the report here.