Survey results: COVID-19’s impact on nurses and care assistants

The coronavirus pandemic has changed all our lives – but healthcare workers are among those feeling the greatest impact.

With the deaths of over 300 care staff (60-90% reportedly from BAME backgrounds), a lack of adequate PPE and slow initial testing placing the UK’s response second-last in a global ranking, care-givers are facing the challenge of their professional lives, every day.

To shine a light on our frontline staff’s incredible contribution, in May 2020 we surveyed 1100 of our nurses and carers about their experiences working through COVID-19 – and the results are truly eye-opening.

Major findings

1. There is still a shocking lack of adequate PPE

  • 48% of all respondents reported inadequate PPE.
  • Nearly double the proportion of those lacking PPE say they have contracted COVID-19, vs. those with adequate PPE (17% vs. 9%).
  • 15% said they had turned down work due to lack of PPE.
  • Elderly and vulnerable care roles report inadequate PPE most, with 58% of community care and 48% of care home staff citing inadequate PPE, compared to 37% in acute hospitals.

2. Toll on physical and mental health is high

  • 87% say they’re ‘concerned’ about contracting COVID-19 at work.
  • 42% believe they may have contracted COVID-19 already through work.
  • 58% said mental health support either wasn’t a priority, or inadequate, at their workplace.
  • Negative mental health scoring has trebled, with 16.5% scoring themselves three or below on a 1-5 scale precrisis, compared with 48% now.

3. Despite the challenge, care staff are committed and proud

  • 62% haven’t turned down any work during the crisis.
  • 39% are ‘more committed to their role’.
  • 52% are ‘more proud of their role’.

4. But inadequate PPE/mental health support has a real impact

  • 11% said they were ‘less committed to their role’ or ‘considering leaving’, and of those:
  • 76% had inadequate PPE.
  • 89% said mental health support wasn’t a priority or inadequate.

Caring for our carers

Our findings show the depth of care-givers’ contribution during the coronavirus crisis.

As you scroll the results below, consider donating to our #CareForOurCarers fund – proceeds will be split between Cavell Nurses’ Trust and the Care Workers’ Charity, supporting nurses and carers during times of hardship. You can find out more about the fund at the end of this piece.

Survey results

Jump to section:

1. Working environment

Healthcare workers are ‘very concerned’ about contracting COVID-19 at their care setting

There’s high concern about contracting coronavirus among healthcare workers – 87% say they are concerned to some degree, with only 13% stating they were ‘not concerned’.

Nearly half of respondents (47%) said they were ‘very concerned’ – the majority.

How concerned are you about contracting coronavirus?

The majority are treating COVID-19 patients in acute hospitals and care homes

Over half of respondents (55%) stated they’d provided direct care to a patient with COVID-19.

Looking at those respondents by their place of primary employment, the majority worked in acute hospitals (84%) or nursing/residential homes (64%).

In contrast, only 13% of domiciliary care respondents stated they’d treated someone with COVID-19.

Have you treated a COVID patient?

It’s all part of the job for healthcare workers

64% of respondents who have cared for COVID-19 patients state the primary reason as “it’s part of the expectation of my role.” This is by far the majority answer, with a runner-up response of 18% saying “I want to help during the crisis.”

Income as the primary reason was low, with only 6% citing this.

Nearly two thirds of care-givers have taken all work they received during the crisis…

62% of care-givers say they’ve taken on all work received during the coronavirus crisis – fulfilling the duty to care where able.

…but lack of PPE has forced some to turn down work

Of the healthcare workers who’ve turned down work, 15% said they’d needed to because of concerns over lack of PPE – the second highest result.

A majority (over a third) cited non-COVID-related ‘Other’ reasons for turning down work.

Section two: PPE

Nearly half of healthcare workers reported having inadequate PPE

A shocking 48% of nurses and carers said they had inadequate access to PPE at their care setting.

PPE is being rationed, reused, bought… or isn’t available

20% of all respondents said they were rationing or reusing PPE, while 16% said supplies were low, or slow to be replaced.

6% were relying on PPE they’d purchased themselves, while perhaps most worryingly, 6% said they had no PPE at all.

Scotland reports highest proportion of adequate PPE; South and Yorkshire most inadequate

53% of nurses and carers in the South East, South West and Yorkshire & Humberside cited they had inadequate PPE – the highest-reported regions to do so.

39% of care workers in Scotland reported inadequate PPE – but while this is the ‘lowest’ report of regional inadequate PPE, this is still a significantly high figure and representative of the national failing of the protection of our care workers.

Healthcare staff in community settings report greatest proportional lack of PPE

The highest reported inadequate PPE is in community settings, where a shockingly high proportion (58%) say PPE access is inadequate. Community nurses help the NHS meet the needs of elderly, disabled or vulnerable patients who may not be able to easily visit the hospital, working across clinics, health centres, residential accommodation and in patients’ own homes.

In nursing/residential homes, nearly half of respondents report inadequate PPE (48%) – speaking to the well-documented failure in providing protection for such organisations.

Staff in domiciliary services (65%) and acute hospitals (63%) reported the highest proportion of adequate PPE available. On the other hand, over a third of staff at these settings report inadequate access – still an unacceptably high proportion.

42% of healthcare staff believe they could have contracted COVID-19 at work

Nearly half of respondents answered either ‘yes’ (13%) or ‘maybe’ (29%) when asked whether they had already contracted COVID-19 as a result of exposure at work.

Double those with inadequate PPE report contracting COVID-19, vs. those with adequate PPE

Those who reported inadequate PPE also reported contracting COVID-19 nearly twice as much as those citing adequate PPE, proportionally.

17% of respondents who cited inadequate access to PPE answered ‘yes’ they’d contracted COVID-19, while only 9% of those with adequate PPE said the same.

10% more inadequate PPE respondents also said they’d ‘maybe’ contracted coronavirus.

Overall, 51% of those reporting inadequate PPE said ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ to having contracted COVID-19.

Section three: Mental health

Mental health support at work is mixed

The majority, at 42%, say their wellbeing has been prioritised and given adequate support at work during the crisis.

However, nearly a third (32%) say it’s ‘not a priority’, and over a quarter (26%) say there’s inadequate support in place, despite it being seen a priority.

Over half of respondents, then, at 58%, do not report receiving vital workplace support of their wellbeing and mental health during this time of heightened difficulty for many.

Negative mental health has trebled

Negative mental health scoring has trebled among care staff during the crisis, with 48% scoring themselves three or below on a 1-5 scale, compared with 16.5% scoring the same way pre-crisis.

Overwhelmingly, care-givers are committed to their careers during the coronavirus crisis

39% reported being more committed to being a nurse or carer during the coronavirus crisis, while 35% said they feel the same commitment.

That’s over two thirds of healthcare staff reporting positive commitment to their roles, despite the pressure and complexity the crisis has added to many daily lives.

And those feeling less committed also reported inadequate PPE…

Of the slim minority of healthcare workers who said they felt less committed to their roles, 82% of those respondents also cited having inadequate PPE. Similarly, 69% of respondents considering leaving were those who also reported inadequate PPE.

In contrast, 61% of those saying they were more committed also said they had adequate PPE.

A correlation between the access given to adequate PPE, and healthcare workers’ commitment to their vital role, can be seen in play here.

… and poor mental health support

It’s a similar story with respondents’ mental health support.

67% of those saying they are ‘less committed to their role’ also say ‘mental health support is not a priority’ at their workplace, vs. 59% who say they are ‘more committed’ to their role who also cite mental health support as ‘a priority and effective’ at work.

Overall… over half of care-givers feel ‘more proud’ of their role during the coronavirus crisis

In the face of the incredible challenges nurses and carers have seen since the crisis began, the majority are more proud than ever of what they do.

93% of respondents said they were either ‘more proud’ (52%), or their feelings ‘hadn’t changed’ about their role during the crisis (41%).

Let’s care for our carers

Our results show care-givers have battled incredible challenges to look after us throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Let’s give back and care for our carers.

Donate to our #CareForOurCarers fund now – raising money for the Care Workers’ Charity and Cavell Nurses’ Trust.


Just £5 will help nurses and carers during one of the toughest times of their lives – and if you aren’t able to donate, do share this page to raise awareness of the pandemic’s impact on our care-givers.

Read more about our #CareForOurCarers fund, and the charities it supports, here.

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