'You feel other people’s grief on a daily basis': Chesterfield Royal Hospital staff open up about the impact of pandemic

Chesterfield Royal Hospital staff have spoken about the impact of the pandemic on their own mental health – admitting there has ‘been no respite’ and they have ‘cried a lot’.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 2:40 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 2:48 pm

With the hospital now reported as almost ‘Covid-free’, staff pressed into other roles at the height of the pandemic are now returning to their previous jobs.

The effects of coronavirus are still all around them, however, and in the NHS nationally, more than half of workers say their mental health has declined.

NHS Charities Together has published the research to launch a new appeal urging the public to be ‘there for them’ as NHS staff face the triple challenge of dealing with the continuing impact of Covid, tackling the backlog of other patients who desperately need treatment and making sure their own mental health isn’t a casualty of the crisis.

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Darren Barthorpe, occupational therapist technician and physio, said the pandemic had been 'draining' for all staff.

At the beginning of the pandemic last year, Angela Rimington worked as a full-time relief receptionist on the surgical wards at the Royal but was soon redeployed to assist on the high dependency unit and intensive therapy unit and then as a swabbing CAO.

Throughout this time, Angela has seen the impact of Covid on herself and others

“Staff are seeing really poorly patients and also experiencing the distress of patients’ relatives being unable to visit them,” she said.

"None of us have experienced it before. You feel other people’s grief on a daily basis.

Angela Rimington has described the impact of Covid-19 on staff at Chesterfield Royal Hospital.

“There’s also a personal impact, because staff have their own families that they are coming home to after working in an environment where there’s more risk.

"They have to go home to their family knowing that there’s a possibility they could pass it on. Some have family members with Covid-19 who they won’t be able to visit either.

“It’s been challenging for all staff, including background staff.

"So much has happened over the past year with regards to how we operate as a trust and until you actually stop and think about what we have been through, you don’t realise how much of an effect it has had on you.”

Nationally, two thirds of NHS staff say they are suffering from anxiety and a third have reported depression in the survey.

Darren Barthorpe, an occupational therapist technician and physio at the Royal, admits his own mental health has been ‘all over the place’.

“I sit watching TV sometimes and cry at the slightest thing when I’ve had a bad day at work,” Darren said. “I’ve cried a lot.”

Darren, who was moved onto a dedicated Covid ward to undertake physio during the pandemic, said: “We saw more illness in the second wave than the first.

"We had seven Covid-19 wards open, and at one point, nearly 200 patients."

Now, Darren is back working in orthopaedics, where they are facing a backlog of patients waiting for their planned operations, and he says there has ‘been no respite’.

The uncertainty and concern of another possible wave is at the forefront of staff’s minds.

Darren said: “Staff are scared to go through it all over again – it fills you full of dread. Staff are reeling from the impact, they have trouble sleeping, bad dreams, night terrors.

"You don’t stop thinking about people you’ve cared for, and you get very emotional.”

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