Back to the frontline

UNISON’s national nursing officer Stuart Tuckwood has returned to the NHS for the fight against COVID-19. First, he explained what the union is doing to support its health members

The NHS and the country is facing an unprecedented challenge in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

We’re going to need the skills and experience of everyone who can offer them to come through this challenge.

Before working for UNISON, I worked as a nurse in a critical care rapid response team. So now I’m going back into the NHS to provide cover and help my colleagues during this emergency. We’re going to see big numbers of very sick people coming into hospitals and we need to support each other to deal with this as well as possible.

Retired healthcare workers have been asked if they can consider coming back into healthcare to provide support during this emergency. We’re encouraging those who can to assist – and UNISON will provide support and representation for those who are able to do so.

We’ve also negotiated agreements with the NMC and chief nursing officers of each country to enable nursing students who have the right skills to be able to work in the NHS and continue learning at this time.

During any emergency, the first priority always has to be protecting those who care. Nurses can’t continue caring if they’re put at risk, so it’s important they have the right protective equipment, time to rest, and support and training for their roles.

UNISON has been fighting to make sure all of this is in place for all healthcare workers and students, and will continue doing so right through the response to this pandemic.

I’d like to say a massive thank you to all of those who are stepping forward to offer help.