NHS workers share what it’s like to work during a pandemic

Watch frontline staff reflect on COVID-19, what they’ve learned, and the ongoing issues the virus brings to light for the NHS

For the last ten Thursdays, households across the UK have dropped everything at 8pm to break into applause, clapping in gardens, on doorsteps, and out of windows to show their support for NHS staff. It’s a nice way to express gratitude towards healthcare workers on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic, but – as many have pointed out – it also doesn’t fix the lack of funding and support they’ve faced in the years leading up to (and during) COVID-19.

“Seeing it at the hospital – and generally seeing it over the past few years, even before this pandemic started – our NHS has been heavily underfunded,” says one of the workers in this video, who realised how serious the situation is when they had to stop providing cancer diagnosis due to a lack of capacity. 

“It’s not their fault for a lack of service,” they add, of the health service. “They always do their best. It’s actually a lack of funding.”

“There needs to be an understanding that claps aren’t quite good enough,” says another member of frontline staff, “and what NHS workers need and key workers need is actually action.”

The support that has been provided can’t only exist during the coronavirus crisis either: “actually, it’s always needed.” After all, years of austerity and privatisation arguably led the NHS to the fragile state it was in when the pandemic hit.

Other NHS workers share some of the tragic personal stories coming out of the pandemic, including still having to go into work after fellow staff members have passed away. One also relates the “horrible” process of withdrawal of care – or turning off life support – with the patient’s family only able to attend over FaceTime due to social distancing measures, saying: “It just felt wrong on a human level.”

That isn’t to say that there isn’t an inspiring message to be taken away from frontline workers’ experiences, though. The video also documents how many student nurses have stepped in, sacrificing their time and safety to help fight the pandemic. “We have learnt about patience, teamwork, and communication throughout this period,” says one student.

Another NHS worker adds: “Nursing is a profession I am extremely proud to be a part of. I don’t have the words to do justice to the incredible people that I work alongside. Incredible just doesn’t cut it.”