Health employers must do all they can to find ways of maintaining staff levels at swamped hospitals without burning out already-overwhelmed NHS workers, says UNISON.
With hospital departments around the UK struggling to cope with rising coronavirus cases and winter pressures, staff are being pushed to the brink, the union says.
UNISON is urging employers to explore every option to avoid simply making healthcare workers do further shifts.
That includes calling on the thousands of former NHS staff who came forward to offer their services during the first Covid-19 wave, says the union.
Those that do extra work must be given time off as soon as possible in compensation and pay rates should be high enough to attract the widest possible pool of people.
UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: ‘Coronavirus is putting untold pressures on the NHS but the health and well-being of staff is a major concern.
‘Many are still exhausted from the first wave and are going through it all over again. There aren’t enough staff as it is, but they’re being called in to cover more and more hours.
‘Employers have to dig deep and look at every possible option for cover to avoid putting the burden on those who’re already overworked.
‘Lots of people came forward during the first wave offering to return to the NHS and everything possible should be done to ensure they can help. We know that many who offered were not used.
‘Otherwise, staff face burnout, soaring sickness levels and there’ll intolerable pressures on those who are left, in a terrible spiral of decline.
’The government must learn lessons that allowing NHS staff shortages to go unchecked causes immense damage when the chips are down.’
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