Over the past year, the NHS, including, locally, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, has dedicated its efforts to responding to and caring for patients with Covid-19.

This response continues while, at the same time, the trust reintroduces services which were temporarily paused during the recent surge in Covid patients admitted to hospital.

The much-valued work undertaken by teams in intensive treatment units and emergency departments has been widely acknowledged, but we know less about the work of the many others on whom the NHS depends.

We asked some of these unsung heroes, working across County Durham and Darlington, how the pandemic has affected their working lives

Lindsay Harris

Lindsay Harris

Lindsay Harris – Associate director of procurement

Lindsay heads the procurement team which is responsible for, ‘buying goods, services and works’. During the pandemic, Lindsay has been responsible for ensuring the trust has adequate supplies of PPE – Personal Protective Equipment which, in line with other NHS organisations, proved particularly challenging during the first months.

“I’m so proud of our team for their overall response, working together and for not seeing anything as too much trouble – including receiving deliveries during the early hours of the morning. We never ran out of PPE. Supply issues have improved we continue to work tirelessly to ensure we comply with guidance and standards that have evolved as our knowledge of Covid has developed. Our priority is to protect out front line colleagues and provide not only PPE but other critical clinical products and devices. To say this year has been challenging is an understatement. I am proud to lead a team that has demonstrated dedication and commitment to roles and the trust. It’s also a privilege to protect our staff and we are so grateful for the public support – it has been humbling.”

The Northern Echo:
Jools Wallace

Jools Wallace – Emergency Department receptionist, University Hospital of North Durham

The reception team in a hospital Emergency Department is used to being incredibly busy as they’re the first point of contact for anyone attending the department – they book in every patient whether they walk in or arrive by ambulance, whilst also dealing with many external enquiries. Jools explains what has and hasn’t changed about her role in the year since the start of the pandemic.

“The trust created two emergency departments so we could care for patients with Covid or suspected Covid separately from other patients. They were completely different areas with separate entrances, staff, equipment etc. It was really like working in a new department so there was a lot to learn. A lot of staff came to work in the department from other areas so we made them very welcome to our team.

“We’ve now merged the departments back to a certain degree with a separate area for Covid or suspected Covid patients. Social distancing in the waiting area means less patient capacity and screens at our receptions are now the norm.

“The staff who were deployed to support the initial influx of patients have returned to their permanent roles.

“A&E is like a big extended family who all pull together and work as an incredible team – I’m so proud to be part of it and the NHS – it’s also been amazing to be so appreciated by the public."

The Northern Echo:

Simone

Simone – ward hostess, ward 1, University Hospital of North Durham

As a ward hostess, Simone, who has worked for the Trust for eight years, is responsible for serving meals and drinks to patients. Previously, ward 1 was an elderly care ward but, in common with many wards and departments, the focus changed.

“The ward became one of the areas caring for Covid-19 patients, many of whom were very ill. Some of them were young, in their 30s, and they all needed a lot of care from our clinical teams. We all worked very hard and supported each other as well as the patients.

“We’ve taken it a day at a time and the Trust has been very supportive, ensuring the teams have what they need. The needs of patients on the ward has changed over the year and the numbers with Covid decreased - then increased again. Initially, I couldn’t switch off even at home, I felt very emotional and it was terrible seeing family’s lives torn apart. I hope going forward we retain the very strong, positive sense of teamwork. I’d also love it if the massive increase in appreciation for the NHS continued."