Earlier this year an innovative public-private research partnership between Deloitte, King's College London and Public Health England published findings from novel research exploring the topic of employee responses to extreme events. Their report, Willing and Able: Building a crisis resilient workforce, focused on the core question: if employees are able to report to work during an extreme event, would they be willing to do so?1 Subsequently, given the critical role of the NHS workforce in maintaining a fully functioning healthcare delivery system at times of crisis, the project team reviewed their research findings supplemented by published research on the willingness of healthcare staff to work during extreme events. This week's blog presents some of the project's key findings and recommendations.
While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence indicating that healthcare workers will go to great lengths to fulfil their roles during times of crisis, to what extent are these anecdotes supported by evidence? Do healthcare workers feel a duty to continue to work under any circumstance?
There are a number of published research articles that compare healthcare workers' willingness to report to work during different hypothetical scenarios. One such study found that 78 per cent of frontline health staff in Australia said they would be willing to work in a weather related event compared to 67 per cent in an influenza pandemic and 52 per cent in a bioterrorism event.2 Similarly, research in the US found that healthcare workers were most willing to report to work for a mass casualty incident (86 per cent), an environmental disaster (84 per cent) or a snow storm (80 per cent) and least likely to report to work for a chemical event (68 per cent), a smallpox epidemic (61 per cent), a radiological event (57 per cent) or an outbreak of SARS (47 per cent).3 This demonstrates that threats that could impact the direct health of the individual or their family could make healthcare workers less willing to come to work.
The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa has provided further evidence. One study, examining UK healthcare workers' attitudes on volunteering to help with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, found that the primary barrier to volunteering was insufficient information on which to base the decision. Other barriers were uncertainty about what their role would be, fear of catching Ebola, family considerations and partner concerns.4
The above research...