As promised, here’s my guide to staff burnout management during COVID. I’ll post over several days.

First though, the basics.

As a senior NHS leader, you must manage staff wellbeing. It's your primary job. If you don't do this, how on earth are you going to deliver?

Today’s thread covers the problem TODAY. Tomorrow, I’ll cover the mid-term problem

Today, you have a problem: your clinical and non-clinical staff are burning out. What tools do you have available to you?



This is a same day tool. Mandatory breaks, somewhere to go for a sandwich in peace, or with colleagues.

Walk through the working environment, where can staff go to escape for a while?

Does your lower tier management understand the importance of working day breaks?


When the last time every staff member had a day off? Some NHS staff took no holidays in 2020.

It’s unsustainable to not have any time off.

Same with day off work. e.g. Encourage people to “mute” Whatsapp groups on their days off



This is an important tool in your locker, and one many managers won’t enforce because it may leave them short-staffed or damage their stats.

Your alternatives:
-Do something to get people days off; or
-Permanently burnout staff and they’re off anyway


This is something best done in advance, but it’s not too late.

What happens if a clinician calls in sick, how do you replace them? What happens if your reception staff all go off ill?

How you manage this is the heart of good operations management.



If you have no plan B for when someone calls in sick, then you’re chasing the game. Have reserves in mind for if you hit a worst-case scenario.

You can use short-term overworking to compensate for an emergency, but it can’t be a constant state of operations.


Can you shift someone to a less stressful role for a while? Let them recover with normal hours for a while.

Anyone who pretends they can run at 100% for a long time is wrong, it will cause harm.

A tough one to do in real life but bear it in mind!


This is for action TODAY; longer-term rehabilitation will be covered tomorrow.

How do you help obviously damaged people? How do you target interventions to stop people breaking? How do you enable staff to spot other people breaking?



How can staff members’ families contact you to tell you of their worries? What support can you offer them?

This is effectively mental health first aid and is critical given the length of this pandemic.

Stop and think this point through.


These 5 areas are guides to help you deal with TODAY's problems with burnout.

I do hope you use this to refine your plan, otherwise we’ll end the pandemic with a workforce fundamentally burned out and unfit to deal with the non-COVID workload.



You can’t leave this. You can’t just concentrate on today. You must look to tomorrow as well. If you can’t then you’re probably in the wrong job if you’re a senior leader, or are too deep down your own rabbit hole.

Look up for the sake of your people.


I’ll do two more threads this week:

Planning for tomorrow. What happens when COVID subsides?

Planning for long-term. How do you embed it all into good staff plans?

All comments welcome!
Part 2 just sent. This covers the bit when COVID starts to recede and the real dangers to staff mental health:

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25 Nov 19
Interesting but this is only half the story though. Some examples in a thread on the drivers of GP demand:
Long waiting lists in hospitals? Patients go back to their GPs for interim care. My rough rule-of-thumb is a two month wait creates a new GP contact for interim care.
Increased treatment thresholds. E.g. if the hip replacement threshold is increased, you have ill folk in serious pain who need intervention and they will need increasing GP time until they finally get over that threshold.
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