A nurse has urged Brits to stop panic buying so that food is left on the shelves for the NHS heroes who are on the front line in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
As senior regional officer for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Sharon Bissessar’s job is to fight the corner of 15,000 nurses in her North West London patch who are RCN union members.
Since the outbreak, fears have been raised that some NHS staff are not getting tested for COVID-19 nor getting the protective equipment they need, such as face masks.
But Ms Bissessar’s message is that despite the many difficulties – from empty supermarkets to fewer trains and buses – nurses remain focused on caring for the sick and “putting society first”.
Asked whether her members are being tested for the virus, Mr Bissessar wasn’t able to comment on specifics at different hospitals, but she said: “There are inconsistencies across the picture.”
On Monday, March 23, the RCN sent an open letter to the Prime Minister, saying “priority COVID-19 testing for health and social care workers is an absolute must… to do their job while keeping themselves, and their patients, safe”.
The 58-year-old, from Hammersmith, who is a registered A&E nurse herself, said: “There’s no silver bullet. Part of it is about availability of tests and the scale of it – the number of people who need tests, and trying to spread the resources.
“The focus has been on testing people who have been symptomatic and who need care. It’s a challenging time and no-one expected to be in this position.”
For all the highly technical detail behind the country’s effort to help the NHS, it was everyday necessities like food shopping that nurses suddenly had to shout for help with.
Amid scenes of panic buying and empty supermarket shelves, many nurses “struggled to buy essentials from shops”.
“Access to food shopping has been a big concern. If you turn up to Tesco or whatever after a 12-hour shift and can’t get basic stuff… that’s something we have been hearing from our members
“That’s having a genuine impact on their well-being.”
Ms Bissessar added: “The public need to support us.”