Exhausted ICU staff will leave the NHS once pandemic is over, matron warns

Ryan Hooper, PA Chief Reporter
·2-min read

A “large number” of “exhausted” intensive care staff may decide to leave the profession once the coronavirus pandemic is over, a matron at a London hospital has warned.

Lindsey Izard, who works in intensive care at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south London, said staff are so stretched as admissions soar that they are having to make compromises on the ward.

She told the PA news agency: “I think nurses and doctors are struggling with the fact we can’t give the care we would normally give to these patients.

“That sits really hard with nurses.

“Staff are exhausted, and on top of the exhaustion is the fact they have to compromise patient care, in their eyes.

“To do what they need to do to keep the patient safe, but not everything they would want to do for a patient – that’s really hard.

“They’re exhausted and the worry is we haven’t properly reached the peak yet.”

Ms Izard, 47, said staff had been given no respite when coronavirus admissions fell during the summer, because the hospital was trying to catch up with postponed procedures.

“Whereas before (in the first wave), everyone went into a mode of ‘We just need to get through this’, (now) everybody is like ‘Here we go again – can I get through this?’” she said.

“That’s really, really hard for our staff.”

Staff members in the ICU at St George’s Hospital in Tooting
Staff members in the ICU at St George’s Hospital in Tooting (Victoria Jones/PA)

Ms Izard said she has serious concerns about the long-term impact on staff numbers once the pandemic is over.

“I think what we will see at the end of this is exhausted nurses, who probably a large number may not even want to stay in the profession any more,” she said.

“I really do think a lot of people have thought ‘This is the writing on the wall for me as a nurse, I’m not sure I want to do this again’.”

Mike Adams, director for England at the Royal College of Nursing, echoed Ms Izard’s concerns about pressures on staff.

He said: “As Covid-19 infection rates increase, there is real concern at the ability of health and care services to give safe and effective care to patients because of low staffing levels.

“But this is not a new problem, we went into the pandemic with tens of thousands of vacancies in the NHS in England. The Government must redouble its efforts to build the sustainable workforce needed.”