Morale is low and hospitals are at breaking point. The pandemic is taking its toll on the mental health of those who care for us
Over the course of this pandemic, I have thought a lot about parallel lives. Back in the eerily quiet spring days of the first lockdown, it became apparent that healthcare workers were living a radically different existence from the rest of us. While many of us were safe in our homes, frightened but distanced from the grim realities of death at the hands of Covid-19, health and social care workers were out there in the thick of it. Try as we might, we could never fully understand what they had been through, and continue to go through, every day.
That feeling – that no one truly gets it – has only deepened with time. I started interviewing healthcare staff and the psychologists who have been treating them in March last year, and since then I have seen morale weaken dramatically. I cannot speak for everyone – the NHS is an enormous organisation made up of hundreds of thousands of people – but I feel that I can shed some light on how the ones I have spoken to are feeling. Strict communications rules, combined with a tendency in the medical profession to not want to admit you are struggling, mean that we are not seeing the full picture in terms of morale. On top of that, there’s the feeling that the public don’t want to hear about it. We want to believe that we are in safe hands; that the people who care for us are invulnerable.