'Thank You' - Our salute to the frontline heroes fighting Covid-19
- Credit: NNUH
The Covid-19 pandemic brought the best out of Norfolk and Waveney. Here we are paying thanks to just a few of those who made the difference on the frontline.
They reveal the challenges and sacrifices of the last year, and how the public rallied round when it mattered most.
Julie Robinson, home manager at Oaklands Care Home in Scole.
"The pandemic posed challenges like none I have ever encountered before.
“I had to lead a team that I didn’t know and make them believe in themselves.
“They stood up to the challenge and we have had some fantastic times over this unusual time.
“We’ve been fortunate with a wonderful activity team, we’ve had plenty of summer barbecues in our beautiful gardens.
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“All staff got involved, from care staff, domestics, maintenance and management.
“We have taken on roles, not only as carers but surrogate sons and daughters and friends to the residents and to each other. We have embraced technology and many have learnt new skills, such as Zoom calls, Skype calls, so that our residents can have conversations with their loved ones.
“This has been a truly heart-wrenching time where we’ve watched some of our residents pass away and have not been able to comfort their families as we would normally do; we are after all carers, this care usually extends to families too.
“And yet through all of the difficulties, what has come out of this has been a resilience not only of our teams but the wider community.
“We have had ice cream vans come to the home, to give free ice creams to staff and residents, we’ve had Norwich City Football club visit, with goodies for the home and many more acts of kindness that have shown how much people care and how kind people can be.
“When I look back on 2020 the amazing support from the public will be one of the positives.
“I really think the public has grown to understand and appreciate the difficult job carers do.”
Richard Brighty, hospital porter at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn
Hospital porter Richard Brighty came out of retirement and returned to work because he could not walk away from the NHS during the Covid crisis.
The 57-year-old has worked for the health service for 37 years, with 20 of them years being spent at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn.
“I wanted to support the NHS in a time I felt it needed it most,” said Mr Brighty, who retired in March and returned to the QEH in June.
“I couldn’t just walk away, I felt it was my responsibility to come back and help where I can. I love what I do and the people I come into contact with, whether it’s staff or our patients. I just want to be able to support them all.”
Mr Brighty’s hard work and years of contribution was recognised by the hospital when he was awarded the QEH40 Hero Award to mark its 40th anniversary at its annual staff awards.
The award was to recognise a member of staff who has gone above and beyond for patients.
The team at Norse’s Test Kits and Food Distribution Hub
The team was set up in spring to support Norfolk County Council’s pandemic response.
Working tirelessly behind the scenes, the seven-person team has ensured that protective equipment, emergency food boxes and tests kits are stored, packed and delivered across Norfolk, and into Waveney.
“I’ve never worked in such a rewarding environment; this team is an absolutely brilliant group of people who all work so hard. We’ve all felt really honoured and very proud to do our bit,” said Liam Spring, who oversees the county’s PPE, Test Kits and Food Distribution Hub.
Always ready to respond, they plan deliveries and travel hundreds of miles every day to places including care homes, social work teams, schools, district councils, fire services and test and trace teams, as well as delivering food to households in need, or to people shielding.
They have risen to the challenge of helping to keep people safe, by so far by delivering:
• PPE – 7,783,602 (over seven million) items
• Food – 239 food boxes
• Test Kits – 2,245
Julie Averies, procurement manager, James Paget University Hospital, Gorleston
Overseeing the buying and distribution of thousands of items to keep a hospital running is a challenge at the best of times.
Add in the huge additional demand created by a pandemic and the job reaches a whole new level.
But Hospital Procurement Manager Julie Averies and her nine-strong team at the James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, rolled up their sleeves and made sure that the supplies kept flowing, from the loading bay to the wards.
The procurement team focusses on buying everything from paperclips to CT scanners – and getting them to the right place at the right time, supported by the hospital’s Environmental and Logistics team.
As the pandemic took hold, there was a need to ensure that not only did the day-to-day supplies keep rolling but also vastly increased quantities of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), to help staff care for a patients with COVID-19.
“Our workload increased – and it also changed,” said Julie, who has worked at the hospital for more than 25 years.
“We were, of course, receiving supplies including PPE through the national NHS supply chain.
“But we were also boosting our PPE supplies by sourcing items from engineering and work wear companies, all of which needed to be rigorously inspected for suitability before being distributed – as did all the numerous donations from the local community.”
With increased quantities of PPE arriving at the hospital, the team had to make best use of every inch of space in the warehouse and created additional storage areas both onsite and nearby.
Technology played an important role, with the procurement team’s IT system not only recording the arrival and despatch of goods but also being linked to the hospital’s operational management system so senior leaders had a ‘live’ picture of available supplies.
“In the early weeks of the pandemic, we had a steady stream of people contacting us who were anxious about getting the type of masks they needed, the aprons and general PPE – so we were very aware of the responsibility we had,” said Julie.
“But, throughout, we managed to keep the supplies flowing through the hospital – people got what they needed.
“I am immensely proud of the team. We are not frontline and we are not treating patients and saving lives but we are providing the tools for people to do that – and that’s very satisfying.”
The team at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital
Staff at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) have been on the frontline of the fight against Covid-19.
As well as caring for patients, staff at the hospital have been carrying out research in order to discover new techniques for treating coronavirus.
Among those involved were the team on Brundall ward, who have been one of the main Covid-19 wards at NNUH during the pandemic, and the microbiology team, who have tested more than 50,000 patient swabs for Covid-19 since the pandemic started.
Michelle Wigger, ward sister of Brundall Ward during the first wave of Covid-19, said: “We supported each other really well and the experience has brought us together as a team.
“It is a privilege to provide that care to those patients at a very difficult time. I feel really proud of the team and they chose to stay as the Covid-19 ward when there was talk of them being rotated, which is really commendable.”
Carol McEwan, matron on the Critical Care Complex, which looked after the sickest Covid-19 patients during the pandemic, said: “Patients and families are at the heart of everything we do as a team on critical care.
“The team worked tirelessly in full PPE and tight fitting masks for 12 and a half hour shifts working round the clock to support each other.
“In these challenging circumstances the team spirit was amazing. We are really humbled that so many patients and families have taken the time to thank us.”
Norfolk County Council's team
Norfolk County Council’s staff had to react quickly to the pandemic, providing services across a range of areas.
Among the team are Ali Gurney and Amanda Lock.
In May 2020, Ali’s job in Public Health changed dramatically, as she met the challenge of Covid-19, setting up and running the team described as ‘backbone of the councils and public health local response to the pandemic’.
Ali’s team includes epidemiologists, data analysts, nurses, environmental health officers and public health consultants, dealing with all reports of Covid-19 cases from schools, care homes, businesses and partner organisations such as Public Health England.
The local outbreak service now operates seven days a week and has managed more than 800 situations and outbreaks.
Through all of the hard work, the most difficult part of 2020 has been juggling work and family life, especially supporting her children’s remote learning in lockdown.
Ali says that despite everything it’s been a rewarding year overall, through all the long hours worked the teams’ ‘can-do’ attitude has helped reduce the spread of infections in schools, care homes and workplaces.
And the positive feedback from schools has been heart-warming for us to receive.
Amanda Lock was based in the county council’s adult social services team.
Before 2020, Amanda was a member of Norfolk County Council’s Employment Team, but in spring was asked to support Norfolk’s Day Service providers as coronavirus hit.
Day Services provide vital support for individuals with physical, sensory or learning disabilities, and the social distancing rules have transformed how they operate.
These providers can contact Norfolk County Council throughout the pandemic for advice on the new regulations, what the meant and what the county council could do to assist them in supporting their vulnerable service users.
Amanda was a point of contact for many of them, always available to listen, advise and answer questions regardless of time or context.
Amanda’s support helped make a real difference, despite being new to the role. Her positivity, compassion and can-do attitude helped many people, and she was even nominated for recognition by the Lord Lieutenant by one of the providers she has supported this year.
Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Julie Wvendth and the lead for Op Response20, Norfolk’s Constabulary’s response to Covid-19, said: “Policing Norfolk is one big team effort.
“And the Covid-19 pandemic has affected every part of our organisation on a scale that would have been unimaginable at the start of this year.
“We had to find new ways of policing and supporting our staff, officers on the frontline, staff in back office support roles and our special constables: all of whom are critical to the continued delivery of our services.
“The announcement of the first lockdown was followed at force HQ in Wymondham and in stations across Norfolk with an eerie silence as staff were asked to work from home.
“And suddenly everyone needed a laptop. This proved a logistical nightmare with suppliers seeing increased demand for their equipment.
“Screens were installed in our control room so we could deal with calls to 999 and 101 safely, and significant changes were made to our regular policing patrols. People’s roles were changed at the drop of a hat, and everybody stood shoulder to shoulder to support each other.
“Some were busy reading new legislation and guidance so they could update officers and staff. In the early days legislative changes moved at an incredible pace, sometimes notice was only given a matter of hours before it was enacted.
“Elsewhere, colleagues were busy trying to source quality PPE, labelling 12,000 face coverings, devising a virtual training package so mandatory training was still up to date or figuring out the best way of taking a statement, conducting an interview or making a cross border arrest.
“In addition to our ‘normal’ business, people were also calling us to report breaches of the health regulations and in the space of a month or so, since the introduction of new legislation in March, we had received 4,677 reports from people.
“At the same time there was a series of burglaries in Norwich that we linked to one offender, who was promptly arrested. We saw a rise in Covid-19 scams where unscrupulous individuals were exploiting the pandemic to con vulnerable people out of thousands of pounds.
“And although our normal demand fell dramatically and fewer people were in our custody suites, we knew there were so called “hidden crimes” taking place - domestic abuse, controlling and coercive behaviour, sexual abuse online - so we worked closely with local councils, health and housing and domestic abuse charities to make sure people knew we were still there for them if they needed us.”