An NHS worker quit his “dream job” after Covid-19 pressure got too much – as a survey reveals more than half of his colleagues are considering the same.
Shane Longton, 37, said he was prepared to work for the NHS for life but reluctantly admitted “I didn’t sign up for this”.
The healthcare worker of four years coped with a shortage of PPE, and can remember the names of all 50 people he accompanied during their last dying moments.
But he said attitudes towards frontline staff has changed since the ‘clap for carers’ phase – and he’s sick of people refusing to wear masks or breaking the rules.
He said staff sickness levels have piled on extra pressure and morale is at an all time low.
Shane says now his work makes him a target of abuse by people who believe the virus is a ‘hoax’ – which was the final straw in his decision to quit his much-loved role.
He said his anxiety has become “too much to bear” and he handed in his notice last week – despite having no job to move on to.
A UNISON survey of more than 10,000 NHS staff published in recent days revealed 52% are considering leaving their job in the next year.
Shane from Preston, Lancashire, said: “I still remember all my patients names and faces, because I made a point of getting to know each person I worked with.
“One morning I could be chatting to them about their life and their family, but by the afternoon I could be be preparing their bodies after they passed away.
“I loved my job, and I still want to care for people and make an impact on people’s lives, but it’s become too much to bear – I have to look after my mental health.
“Not only that – more and more staff are off sick, putting even more pressure on those of us who were left – and it just becomes impossible to manage.
“People say ‘it’s what you signed up for’ but none of us signed up for this.
“I thought I’d work for the NHS for the rest of my life, but I just can’t do it anymore.
“I wanted to do my job and save people, but you can’t save everyone.
“It’s horrible to hear of staff being given abuse – often from the same people who flout the rules by refusing to wear masks and social distancing.
“The icing on the cake for me has been the anger directed towards the NHS and people refusing to follow the rules.
“I have had to delete a lot of my own Facebook friends after seeing statuses saying the pandemic is a ‘hoax’.”
“And seeing protesters chanting outside of hospitals full of Covid patients – it’s just ridiculous.”
Shane, who lives with husband Graham Longton, 36, said he began work for the NHS as a healthcare worker after being inspired by a nurse who cared for him after routine surgery.
After training as a healthcare worker, he has been working at several hospitals around north west England.
He said it was a job he “absolutely loved” – until the pandemic began last March.
As wards filled with Covid-19 patients, PPE was in short supply, leaving him anxious about catching the virus.
He said: “We saw the TV reports showing the hospitals in Italy, but you can never mentally prepare for something like that when it happens around you.
“We were all so scared – at the back of your mind you’re always thinking, ‘am I going to catch this?’.”
He said every day he would develop friendships with patients to support them when they couldn’t see their loved ones.
But would often find himself preparing their body just hours later, after they died from the virus.
He said: “I made a point of getting to know every patient I worked with and I remember each one that passed away.
“They told me about their lives, their families, and what mattered to them most in the world – so it’s devastating when anyone passes away.
“One of the hardest things to do is to switch from hospital mode to family mode when you leave work at the end of the day – the things you see stay with you.”
Shane said he has seen a shift in attitudes towards NHS staff working in the pandemic.
Whereas last year he said he felt appreciated, with ‘clap for carers’ and countless rainbows displayed in windows, recently he has felt that less people are appreciating NHS work and more people are willing to flout the rules.
He says now he feels his hard work makes him a target of abuse and blame by people who are fed up of lockdown or believe the virus is a ‘hoax’ – which was the final straw in his decision to quit his much-loved role.
Shane said handing in his notice last week was a “very bittersweet moment”.
Now seeking a new job, Shane said: “This past year has really taken its toll on my mental health and I have to put that first. My anxiety has got a lot worse and I’m showing symptoms of PTSD from the first wave.
“People say we knew what we were signing up for, but none of us signed up for this.
“I thought I’d work for the NHS for the rest of my life, but I just can’t do it anymore.”
Sara Gorton, head of health at UNISON, a union which represents public service workers, described the experiences of many of the union’s NHS members.
She said: “The NHS is under unbelievable strain and the pressure on staff is overwhelming.
“With soaring numbers of health workers off ill, those on duty are being asked to give even more.
“It’s clear people are now beyond exhausted. This could lead to them quitting the profession altogether.”