Lessons from the frontline: The impact of redeployment during Covid-19 on nurse well-being, engagement and retention

October 2020 – March 2022



This is an 18 month programme of research funded by NIHR Health Service and Delivery Research as part of the Covid Recovery Programme https://www.fundingawards.nihr.ac.uk/award/NIHR132041


During the Covid-19 crisis staff redeployment has been extensive and varied. Some staff have been redeployed into high risk areas from their relatively safe ‘home’ wards while others have been moved off wards to different duties. Nurses, who are the focus of this research, have dealt with risk and uncertainty, huge changes to their ways of working over short periods of time and the constant worry for themselves and their close networks that they may be transmitters of the disease.

The emotional impacts of working through Covid-19 are only beginning to be understood but the longer-term consequences of this crisis are unknown.

Research Plan

This research will seek to understand the impact of redeployment during Covid-19 on nurse well-being, engagement and retention.  We are working with three NHS hospital Trusts to carry out two work packages.

Work Package One

WP1 (months 3-12) To understand how the process of redeploying nursing staff was managed prior to and during the Covid-19 crisis. This will involve interviews with thirty senior staff across the three Trusts who were responsible for decision making about redeployment and the provision of support therein.  Focus groups with 4-5 senior nurses in each Trust will also be held to explore their beliefs and attitudes on the ethical dimensions of decision making.

Work Package Two

WP2 (months 2-16): To understand the emotional and performance challenges for redeployed nurses and how they coped during the Covid-19 crisis. This will involve carrying out surveys and interviews with a total of forty five frontline nurses across three points in time. The research has received Ethical (Ref: Business, Environmental and Social Sciences Faculty Research Ethics Committee AREA 20-041, 3.12.20 V1) and HRA (ref: 290616) approvals.



Patient Involvement opportunity

We are currently looking for patients to be part of our Community Conversations Group.  This group informs our research project looking at the redeployment of nurses to different wards or places during the Covid-19 pandemic to learn from their experiences and improve how we make these decisions in future.


The purpose of the Community Conversation Group is to contribute to the research process by, for example, helping us to understand more fully what patients experience and understand about redeployment, advising on what and how to share the research findings, help raise awareness of redeployment and shape practice for the future. Whilst the project aims to improve the working environment for nurses, we know that staff experience can have a direct impact on patient care and we think it is important to understand redeployment from a patient and wider public perspective. During the meetings you will be asked to discuss your experiences of being a patient or patient family member during Covid-19, how this may have compared to previous hospitalisations, your impression of nurses wellbeing and how this impacted upon the care you are your family member received.

This is a multiple site research project; they are all involved in delivering and participating in the research. We are recruiting individuals from across the three locations, to be involved in online meetings. You will be asked to attend three virtual meetings, which will last no longer than two hours.

We would like to talk to people who:

  • have experience of being admitted to any of the three hospitals (outlined above) for two days or more during the pandemic,
  • care or support someone that has been admitted to any of the three hospitals (outlined above) for two days or more during the pandemic,
  • have access to technology to join in the online conversation via video or phone

What we offer:

As a thank you for your time we will be paying each volunteer a £30 voucher for each meeting attended. Taking part in this project will also give you the opportunity to learn more about why patient experience is so important to the NHS, research stages and processes and so much more.

If you would like some further information about becoming a member of the Community Conversations Group, please contact:  Alice.Dunning@bthft.nhs.uk

Study oversight

A Scientific Steering Committee comprising independent experts in a range of disciplines ensures the integrity of the study throughout.  A Programme Management Group comprising HR, senior nursing and BAME network staff across the three sites, as well as research staff from the Bradford Institute for Health Research and the University’s of Bradford, Leeds and Oxford guide the research process.  We are also guided by a Staff Advisory Group comprising nursing staff with experience of redeployment during Covid-19 and a group of patients who experienced a hospital admission during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK.

Nurse Resources

To support nurses and their wellbeing, the research team with the advice of nurses has put together a list of helpful resources:


All RCN members are able to access free, confidential advice and support on a range of work and home issues: www.rcn.org.uk

RCN members can also access free confidential therapy: www.rcn.org.uk/get-help

Frontline19 is an independent UK nationwide service delivering psychological support to those who are, or have been on the frontline of Covid-19:  www.frontline19.com

If you have been involved in a patient safety incident you may find some helpful information on the NHS Second Victim website http://www.secondvictim.co.uk

Key outputs

Planned key outputs (targeting several audiences):  A short handbook/set of guidelines on managing redeployment with a specific focus on how to do this in a crisis situation. At least one short article for Nursing Times and a presentation at the RCN conference.  A short training video targeting those tasked with managing redeployment in the NHS (although beyond scope of study).  Academic journal articles and a presentation at the UK HSR conference. If in this study, patients are found to have a significant role in supporting redeployed staff, a method of reporting to the general public will be identified.

Further information


Jenni Murray (Programme Manager) E: Jenni.Murray@bthft.nhs.uk

Hannah Hartley (Senior Research Fellow) E: Hannah.Hartley@bthft.nhs.uk


Professor Rebecca Lawton, Director, NIHR Yorkshire and Humber Patient Safety Translational Research Centre