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The Manchester Briefing on COVID-19 issue 28: Providing support to healthcare workers

Psychological support to healthcare workers during Covid-19, and the risk of fake vaccines, are just two of the topics that come under the microscope in the latest issue of The Manchester Briefing.

The fortnightly briefing produced by Alliance MBS and the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute brings together international lessons for local and national government recovery and renewal, and has been running ever since the pandemic struck a year ago.

As UK hospitals treat record numbers of Covid patients, the study on psychological support to healthcare workers - and considerations for healthcare providers - makes particularly timely reading.

A briefing by Alexander Kreh and Dr Barbara Juen from the University of Innsbruck on disease outbreaks in recent decades finds that frontline healthcare workers show high stress levels and are more at risk of developing symptoms of depression, anxiety and burnout in the short and long-term. Initial research on Covid-19 has also replicated these findings.

Stressors that healthcare workers are confronted with can be numerous. While being exposed to the same societal and emotional stressors as the general population during the Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare workers are additionally exposed to stressors that are unique to their work environment. For example from taking on new roles and responsibilities, working in Personal Protective Equipment, the risks of infection and infecting others, and moral distress.

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Stress

The briefing reports that high stress levels over prolonged periods can negatively affect the wellbeing of healthcare workers, so organisations must balance these stressors with the demands on services such as a surge in patient care over an extended period.

Considering these factors, healthcare organisations should support staff no matter what their role, seniority, or experiences. This means that healthcare organisations should provide access to support structures that workers can approach individually, while also including psychosocial support.

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Vaccine rollout

With the vaccination rollout now gathering pace both here in the UK and across the world, there is also a timely briefing into fake vaccines.

It discusses how fears surrounding Covid-19 has led to criminals utilising black markets to develop and sell fake vaccinations on the dark web, while the demands on government vaccination programmes has also promoted the online sale of other fake medicines.

For instance in the UK there have already been incidents of scammers turning up at people’s doorsteps offering a vaccine for payment, following a spate of fake text messages.

The briefing also talks about how hospitals and healthcare facilities have been hit with a barrage of phishing and ransomware attacks trying to sell fake vaccines, and how vaccination centres may be points of vulnerability.

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Protecting people

The rise in fake vaccines and medications requires approaches that protect people, and infrastructure, says the briefing.

For instance widespread information campaigns are needed to advise people not to buy any vaccines online, while people should be reminded to only consult their registered doctor about vaccination, and only be vaccinated at an official vaccination point.

In terms of infrastructure it says there is also a need to regularly assess cyber security and to train staff in recognising and reporting any phishing scams or malware attacks.

*Download this week's Manchester Briefing on COVID019 (issue 28)

If you would like to contribute your knowledge to the briefing contact Duncan.Shaw-2@manchester.ac.uk

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