HSJ received many messages after the publication of our editorial on managerial and administrative working from home. Below are a small selection which have inspired our second take on the issue. Some small details have been changed to protect the identity of those who contacted us

“I knew, it was utterly wrong, but there was no point in arguing”

I’m a consultant and work in a hospital in Surrey. The first patient I saw who later tested covid-19 positive was [in March].

She was a 60-year-old woman who had become short of breath with chest symptoms five days after returning from an overseas holiday. She had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a few other health problems. She was coughing and breathing fast. From the history I felt like I should test her for covid-19.

The infection control team said as she had stayed in a hotel that had not reported a coronavirus case, [and that] she was “not high risk” [enough], that a test was “not required”.

So, I called our microbiologist. He said, she “does not fit the protocol for testing. So, don’t test”.

Next day, I called the same microbiologist again. He said: “The protocol changed this morning, so you can test now.” The test came back positive three days after she had been admitted.

The next day, I called the trust’s occupational health department for advice. Someone went through the protocol and informed me on the phone that, I needed to self-isolate for the next seven days. I had no symptoms at all.

Then, later on the same day, I got a phone call from occupational health. They said: “There was a meeting at the trust-level today, and a new protocol just came out. According to the protocol you do not need self-isolation. So, you can return to work.”

There was no point in arguing. I knew, it was utterly wrong, but I had to accept it and returned to work.

I developed all the classic symptoms of coronavirus about 12 to 14 days later. I still haven’t been tested but am now self-isolating.

Staff safety is not a priority for NHS trusts. Even after exposure to a diagnosed covid-19 case without PPE or mask, the support I got from trust was appalling.

NHS trusts are always one step behind in understanding the right action plan. Partly because the risks to frontline staff and risks to managers are not equal. On top, these trusts can get away with their unpreparedness and lack of knowledge and thus putting many staff and patients in trouble by blaming it all on the government. This will put many more staff at risk in coming weeks.

“Will I be stigmatised for staying at home?”

I wanted to thank you so much for this letter. I have been battling for two weeks to get my team and other colleagues in our admin/clerical department permission to stay home.

I have been working at home and resisting calls to go in. But that I and colleagues have been told we are key workers and should be in as normal has been very stressful.

I have at times questioned my decision and have been worrying about whether I would be stigmatised for it or whether my job would be at risk.

“It’s absolutely terrifying”

I read your article ‘Please stay at home too’ with much interest. It finally felt like someone was fighting the non-clinical staff’s corner. At the trust where I work my manager has only just granted our small team permission to work from home. There is however a catch, a rota which means some of us have to come to work three days a week.

I have been questioning why we even need to be in at all, but get no reasonable answer. I personally would love to follow the governments guidance and stay at home! I’m absolutely terrified of going into work and bringing this virus home to my family.

I don’t really think that our role is that essential right now. Most of what we do can be done from home, but only three members of staff have trust laptops that can connect to shared drives and the intranet remotely.

The other worrying prospect is that our trust is talking about redeployment for staff. This includes non-clinical to clinical roles with training. Again, absolutely terrifying and something that has given me sleepless nights. That’s not what I signed up for.

Clinical roles are a vocation, you’ve got to want to do that kind of work. Training or no training I’ll be so scared my mind will not be on the job. Even if the redeployment is to another admin role in a clinical department, the anxiety and upheaval of learning a new job and being in unfamiliar surroundings just isn’t going to bring out the best in anyone.

“It’s nonsensical” 

Despite all the team members having all the equipment to work from home, we have been instructed to come to the office at least three times a week. We are all IT staff. We can all work remotely. It’s nonsensical to travel for over an hour to come and sit around to use the same equipment we have access to at home.

“Why is my manager ignoring national guidance”

I work as a secretary and am now severely stressed at the current situation I am facing with my managers.

My duties are to minute meetings and to provide financial advice in relation to non-mainstream clinical activity. I have performed these tasks from home previously without issue.

I am trying to follow the government advice to stay at home during this time… since it is not essential I am onsite to conduct my activities. I have laid out a few options to my manager on how this can be easily achieved. My manager is not supporting this request and directing me to come into the office to work.

The office environment is not set up to allow for safe spacing in the current layout nor is protective equipment provided to the office staff. I cannot understand why my manager is not following the government advice and is putting themselves and our family at risk, as well as endangering those colleagues who are actually at the front line at the trust by potentially bringing infection into the workplace.

I absolutely want to work, I’m fearful that if I don’t follow my managers advice I will be putting my job in jeopardy.

“I was told staying at home was misconduct”

I am a part time admin staff member and having to get to work by doing a two-hour commute each way on three buses. I have refused to go to work because I am not comfortable with the health risks and don’t consider my job (answering calls, data entry etc) worth it. I requested staying off to be taken as unpaid leave. However, I have been told that this is misconduct.

I think this is unfair, and I have decided to put my family’s safety first and go with it. The staff going in are obviously dedicated and there is definitely an attitude of if you don’t muck in somehow you are letting the side down. But I feel by staying at home I am doing my bit for public health.

I work at [name redacted] but live in [name of place redacted] and from what I’ve heard my local trust is more understanding of this sort of situation. I suppose this is where an across the board approach to policy should be instituted, but as I’m sure you know due to the slightly feudal structure of the NHS each trust handles things differently.

“Please help!”

I work in an admin/clerical position for the NHS in Manchester. I live with and care for my 84-year-old father who has age related eyesight issues and takes lenalidomide daily which lowers his immune system. I am being told I still need to be in work. Please help!

Many more similar responses can be seen among the comments appearing under our original editorial.