Critical Reflections on the COVID-19 Pandemic from the NHS Frontline

Anthony Lloyd, Daniel Briggs, Anthony Ellis, Luke Telford

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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the way we live, work, and interact with each other. Nowhere was the pandemic more profoundly experienced than on the frontline of healthcare. From overwhelmed Intensive Care Units to shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and clap for carers, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) became the focal point for the pandemic response. Utilising data from online survey responses (N = 16) complemented by four online interviews and one face-to-face interview (N = 5) with NHS workers primarily during the height of the pandemic, this article offers a preliminary analysis on the challenges the UK’s healthcare workers faced through working in conditions of crisis management. The article particularly addresses NHS workers’ amplification of fear, anxiety, and exhaustion; the absence of widespread solidarity; and implications of the absence of coherent governmental messaging upon the workforce. We situate this discussion within a critical account of neoliberal political economy, the theoretical framework of social harm, and the absence to explicate the harmful conditions of the pandemic’s frontline. While the data are confined to the UK’s NHS workers, its findings are relevant to other countries across the world that enacted similar responses to deal with COVID-19.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalSociological Research Online
Early online date22 Feb 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Feb 2023

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