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Challenges for NHS hospitals during covid-19 epidemic

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1117 (Published 20 March 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m1117

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PPE for Wellbeing: A Junior Doctor’s Perspective

Dear Editor,

The authors’ acknowledgement of the challenges posed by this pandemic to the wellbeing of healthcare staff is welcomed. If the NHS workforce does indeed represent our most valuable asset, then efforts to protect such a precious resource must go further than skin-deep. Much has been written about the inconsistent and limited access to PPE for medical staff across the United Kingdom. However, attention must also be drawn to addressing the mental health needs of an NHS workforce who are tasked with working within a healthcare climate which seems more alien, uncertain and unpredictable each day. To realistically ensure that these needs are met, it is likely that we will need to take matters into our own hands. We must work together to find tangible, systematic and creative ways of responding to these inner challenges. And, as workforce of those who devote their lives to caring for others, we must be willing to invest time in caring for ourselves.

To use an analogy: when approaching a patient’s bedside, we don PPE. We do this to protect the physical health of ourselves and others. In the same way, it is time to appreciate the value of taking active measures each day to protect our wellbeing so that we can most ably meet the challenge that this pandemic presents to our mental health. Doing so will serve to protect our own vitality, and, by helping to sustain our efforts at work, it will protect those we care for in a healthcare setting.

To enable NHS workers to take these daily measures to fortify their wellbeing, we have created the online platform Beat COVID: Get Prepared at www.beatcovid.co.uk. The site is powered by a team of volunteers which includes doctors, medical students, and health and fitness professionals. It provides daily content from expert contributors - offering Mindfulness sessions, home workouts, yoga sequences, sleep advice and nutrition blog posts. All content is freely available and geared toward to the unique challenges that the COVID-19 outbreak presents to healthcare workers.

The response to release has been overwhelming. In its first week, over 3,000 NHS staff used the platform. Hundreds of workers continue to return each day to don their own individual flavour of PPE when it comes to looking after their mind and body. Whether meditating, exercising, cooking or sleeping more soundly, it is heartening that staff are making time to create foundational routines of wellbeing to prepare themselves for the turbulent conditions of current times.

Greater challenges doubtless await us. Life in the NHS and at home remains up in the air. But it is important to realise in coping with this increasingly bizarre scenario, there are so many things that we cannot control. By taking the time each day to look after ourselves, it makes sense to start with something that we can.

Competing interests: No competing interests

21 April 2020
James W Groves
Foundation Year 1 Doctor, COVID-19 Medical Team, Royal Free Hospital London
Pond St, Hampstead, London NW3 2QG