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Research into NHS cancer staff burnout, during COVID-19 pandemic

Charity funds vital study, calling NHS cancer staff to feedback on burnout, resilience and wellbeing during COVID-19 pandemic

The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity will be funding a critical research study, calling on NHS staff to answer surveys about their wellbeing during the COVID-19 crisis. This has been made possible thanks to a generous donation from The Lady Garden Foundation, who have a long-standing relationship with the Charity and Dr Susana Banerjee, Chief Investigator of the Research.

The Lady Garden Foundation is a national women’s health organisation, which aims to raise awareness and funds for research into, and treatment of, gynaecological cancers.

Here we speak to Dr Banerjee, Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden, to find more about the study, and what it aims to achieve.

Dr Susie Banerjee

Q&A with Dr Susie Banerjee

What is your research about?

We want to establish a better understanding of how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on the wellbeing, resilience and burnout of NHS staff working in a cancer healthcare setting.  Working alongside psychologists from Lancaster University, we’ll be launching a national study that invites all NHS staff looking after cancer patients to complete three surveys that will be released over the next year.

How will you do this?

Questions will assess burnout, resilience, well-being and coping strategies amongst staff, not just during the immediate COVID-19 pandemic period, but also in the long term. All NHS staff who work with cancer patients are invited to take part.

The second part of the study will also involve in-depth interviews with NHS staff who are involved in the care of cancer patients over and beyond the COVID-19 period.

Why is this important?

Those working in oncology face unique challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, which researchers fear could cause anxiety and stress amongst the workforce. Cancer patients are particularly vulnerable, with often complex treatment plans in place. Clinicans are making critical and difficult decisions daily, balancing the need to continue care, with the risks COVID-19 presents for cancer patients.

These unique stressors exist alongside professional and personal challenges that all healthcare staff face during this difficult time; working in an environment at a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure, longer hours and re-deployment into different clinical environments.

This is an important issue in the short and long term- especially during these challenging times since the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to support all staff – not only those on the frontline – so that they remain well and committed to their work in the NHS to keep delivering world class care to our cancer patients. Wellbeing, resilience and reducing ‘burnout’ is fundamental to this

How has this been made possible

I’d like to highlight that this research is possible because of funding from The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, thanks to a generous donation from The Lady Garden Foundation. I have a long-standing relationship with both organisations; their support is vital for us to continue our work.

What will be the impact of your work?

We hope the findings will help shape existing wellbeing initiatives and inform new supportive policies. The Royal Marsden has several existing measures in place to support wellbeing and resilience, thanks in part to funding by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. Not only will this help inform our support strategies during COVID19 but help prepare NHS Trusts for the future. We welcome all NHS staff working in a cancer setting to join the survey and volunteer for interviews”

The first of three short surveys and further information about taking part will be published shortly.

The study is also supported by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden and Institute of Cancer Research.

It will be conducted in collaboration with Lancaster University in particular, Dr Claire Hardy from their Centre for Organisational Health and Well-Being, as Psychological Lead, and has endorsement from The Association of Cancer Physicians and British Oncology Pharmacy Association.

Managing Director of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, Antonia Dalmahoy, said:

“Funding ground-breaking research is a fundamental part of our support for The Royal Marsden, and means clinical teams can continue to provide the very best care and life saving treatments for cancer patients across the UK.

“It’s thanks to our generous supporters like The Lady Garden Foundation that we’re able to keep looking for ways to improve the lives of people affected by cancer, even during the most challenging of times.”

The Royal Marsden and ICR have launched several critical research studies such as this at unprecedented speed, with The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity now needing to raise over £500,000 over the coming weeks to ensure support for the research studies can continue.

You can help support research projects like these by donating to our emergency appeal. 

Find out more about other COVID-19 research