Article Text

Original research
Perceptions and experiences of healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK
  1. Cecilia Vindrola-Padros1,
  2. Lily Andrews2,
  3. Anna Dowrick3,
  4. Nehla Djellouli4,
  5. Harrison Fillmore5,
  6. Elysse Bautista Gonzalez2,
  7. Dena Javadi6,
  8. Sasha Lewis-Jackson5,
  9. Louisa Manby2,
  10. Lucy Mitchinson7,
  11. Sophie Mulcahy Symmons2,
  12. Sam Martin8,
  13. Nina Regenold5,
  14. Hannah Robinson9,
  15. Kirsi Sumray2,
  16. Georgina Singleton1,
  17. Aron Syversen2,
  18. Samantha Vanderslott8,
  19. Ginger Johnson1
  1. 1Department of Targeted Intervention, University College London, London, UK
  2. 2Institute of Epidemiology and Healthcare, University College London, London, UK
  3. 3Institute of Population Health Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
  4. 4Institute of Global Health, University College London, London, UK
  5. 5Department of Anthropology, University College London, London, UK
  6. 6Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  7. 7Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Department, Division of Psychiatry, University College London, London, United Kingdom
  8. 8Oxford Vaccine Group, Centre for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine (CCVTM), Oxford University, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
  9. 9School for Policy Studies, Bristol University, Bristol, United Kingdom
  1. Correspondence to Cecilia Vindrola-Padros; c.vindrola{at}


Objective The COVID-19 pandemic has set unprecedented demand on the healthcare workforce around the world. The UK has been one of the most affected countries in Europe. The aim of this study was to explore the perceptions and experiences of healthcare workers (HCWs) in relation to COVID-19 and care delivery models implemented to deal with the pandemic in the UK.

Methods The study was designed as a rapid appraisal combining: (1) a review of UK healthcare policies (n=35 policies), (2) mass media and social media analysis of front-line staff experiences and perceptions (n=101 newspaper articles, n=1 46 000 posts) and (3) in-depth (telephone) interviews with front-line staff (n=30 interviews). The findings from all streams were analysed using framework analysis.

Results Limited personal protective equipment (PPE) and lack of routine testing created anxiety and distress and had a tangible impact on the workforce. When PPE was available, incorrect size and overheating complicated routine work. Lack of training for redeployed staff and the failure to consider the skills of redeployed staff for new areas were identified as problems. Positive aspects of daily work reported by HCWs included solidarity between colleagues, the establishment of well-being support structures and feeling valued by society.

Conclusion Our study highlighted the importance of taking into consideration the experiences and concerns of front-line staff during a pandemic. Staff working in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic advocated clear and consistent guidelines, streamlined testing of HCWs, administration of PPE and acknowledgement of the effects of PPE on routine practice.

  • organisation of health services
  • qualitative research
  • infectious diseases
  • covid-19

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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  • Twitter @CeciliaVindrola, @ElysseBg, @LJ_Manby, @DigitalCoeliac, @NinaRegenold, @SJVanders

  • Contributors CV-P and GJ designed the study. LA, EBG, HR, SMS, SM and SV contributed to the media analysis. LM and SL-J contributed to the policy review. AD, HF, LMi, NR, KS, GS, AS contributed to the telephone interviews. LA, SM, SV, ND, DJ, AD, LMi, NR, KS, GS, AS, LM, GJ, SMS and SL-J participated in the analysis of data. CV-P led the drafting of the manuscript, but all authors contributed to the writing and approved the final version before submission.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study was reviewed and approved by the Health Research Authority (HRA) (IRAS: 282069) and the R&D offices of the hospitals where the study took place.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.