It has shone a light on the humanity of the nurses, doctors and NHS staff who cared for our relatives in their darkest moments, and propped up our NHS in the biggest challenge it has faced since its creation.
For those who lost loved ones, the last year has been unthinkably hard. As has the toll it has taken on the medical professionals who cared for us.
The findings of the studies, which have poured out in recent months, have shown the staggering collateral damage of the last year on NHS staff.
One fifth of the workforce reported feeling high levels of depression in the last year, up from five per cent before the pandemic; one third felt severe anxiety; and one in seven has symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
These are extraordinary, shocking figures that must not be brushed off. Many of these staff went into work in spite of fear for themselves and their families – not in the absence of it. You only do that if you are deeply committed to caring for people, and for our community.
But with so much of the workforce understandably feeling so pressured, it is clear that dedication has come with a huge cost.
The BMA have warned doctors are facing ‘burnout’ with nearly 300 full- time doctors lost in the three months to Christmas of last year, at the height of the pandemic.
We are feeling the effects of this gathering crisis right here in Sheffield. One of our local surgeries – Norfolk Park – which should serve thousands of residents, sits empty partly because we cannot recruit the necessary GPs to staff it. And we are at risk of losing the practice entirely because it is so under-staffed, in an area that can ill-afford to lose precious services.
To cut NHS services in communities as we come out of a pandemic is sheer lunacy.
The pandemic has made the staffing crisis, but it would be wrong to say this is a new problem. When you are struggling to recruit right in the centre of one of the biggest cities in the country, which attracts people from all over the world drawn to its unique appeal, it is clear this is a crisis a long time in the making.
In 2015, the Conservatives were elected on a pledge to deliver 5,000 new doctors by last year. In fact, the number of permanent GPs has fallen.
It is our community here in Sheffield, and in under-pressure rural practices in towns and villages across Yorkshire, who are at the sharp end of these broken promises.
A decade of under-investment has cost the NHS dear, and it has left it running on empty when the biggest health crisis for a century came calling.
I’m not interested in political point scoring, I just want my community to be well-served by the local services they are entitled to.
But the truth is this crisis is a national one and, though we may force a rethink here, the same threat will face surgeries across Yorkshire and England until the Government take the crisis facing our GPs and our NHS staff seriously.
That means proper, dedicated support to tackle the mental health crisis currently ripping through the NHS, and it means a real plan to tackle the chronic under-recruitment of GPs.
In spite of this backdrop there is hope. The community in Sheffield are pulling together and joining our campaign alongside local residents to save the surgery. They know what the local NHS managers haven’t yet fully understand – that coming out of a pandemic is the worst possible time to be cutting back local services.
Hundreds have signed our petition, and the campaign is gathering momentum across the city. Many know that if it can happen here, it can happen in their community, too. We are hopeful this strong, united voice will make them think again.
But this campaign shouldn’t have to be repeated nationwide. To avoid that, it is clear the Government should start valuing our GPs and NHS staff as much as our local community do. That must be one thing that changes for good after this pandemic.
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