Struggling nurses need our support
It is a year today since Boris Johnson announced the first full lockdown in response to what was then an approaching storm of coronavirus infection.
Life as we knew it changed virtually overnight. Schools and businesses closed, employees left their offices to work from home, visits to vulnerable relatives were put on hold and we were all forced to adapt to a new reality that has gone on much longer than anyone could have anticipated.
Meanwhile, the health service geared up for its biggest challenge, the key issues in those early days surrounded accessing supplies of protective personal equipment (PPE) and reconfiguring hospitals to cope with the influx of seriously ill Covid patients.
The major focus was on preventing the NHS becoming overwhelmed, on preventing the dire scenes being witnessed in Italy being replicated in our local hospitals.
Looking back, we can see that mistakes were made, that delays and some crucial decisions cost lives, the full extent of which may take years to assess.
What we also know is that front line healthcare staff risked their lives, particularly in those early days when so little was known about how the virus could be tackled.
It was a full scale emergency then and for many thrust into the eye of the storm, it is is a crisis that has not let up over the past twelve months.
Pat Cullen, director of the Royal College of Nurses (RCN), has spoken of the terrible toll this year has taken on so many of those at the centre of the pandemic response.
At the start of the crisis, nurses asked how they would go about making a will, such was the fear and apprehension amongst staff.
Fortunately, unlike other parts of the NHS, no nurses have died of coronavirus in Northern Ireland, something Ms Cullen attributes to taking a firm stand on PPE.
However, she has revealed serious concerns about a sharp increase in nurses with 'moderate to severe' mental health symptoms with some experiencing suicidal thoughts. Intensive care staff, who have been exposed to so much death and suffering, are said to be especially affected.
We owe it to our exhausted and struggling health service staff, who have sacrificed so much, to ensure they receive the support they need in the weeks and months ahead.
People can play their part by observing the coronavirus guidelines, keeping infection rates down and easing the pressure on our hospitals.