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Community health heroes helping in Shropshire's war on coronavirus

By Lisa O'Brien | Bridgnorth | Coronavirus | Published:

From setting up testing facilities to caring for Covid-19 patients, staff at the trust running Shropshire's community hospitals have been right on the front line in the county's war on coronavirus.

Laura Stewart

The teams at Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust (Shropcom) have remained dedicated in striving to provide the best care for patients either in hospital or at home, with some finding themselves redeployed into new roles.

During the pandemic its staff have also organised the swabbing of NHS and care home workers at testing facilities in Telford and Shrewsbury – which are separate to the assessment centres at Shrewsbury Town Football Club and Telford's International Centre.

Laura Stewart is a Covid-19 swab manager and team leader on the diagnostic, assessment and access to rehabilitation and treatment (DAART) service.

She co-ordinates the swabbing teams in Shrewsbury and Telford, as well as the roaming teams that go to residential and staff homes.

The 32-year-old, from Shrewsbury, said: "I have taken on a whole new team and had to learn new procedures and help staff who have been redeployed from all departments with our local NHS, teach new ways of working, supporting my own DAART team as well as the Covid-19 swabbing teams.

"We are offering a service to essential workers so they can go back to the work they do, as well as helping residential homes with their clients.

"Many that have come to our service have thanked us for being here seven days a week and for coming out of the jobs we know and helping them, to get back to their own jobs."

Business support and information officer Adele Francis is part of the team that assisted in setting up the drive-through testing centres in Shrewsbury and Telford for key workers.

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Adele Francis

Just over two months ago she was assigned to one specific project – coronavirus.

The 51-year-old, from Shrewsbury, was appointed one of the admin leads for the incident management team.

She said: "We have had more admin staff redeployed to our team so that we can delegate different roles to individuals, for example arranging training, updating staff swabbing rotas and ordering personal protective equipment (PPE), uniforms, scrubs and other much needed supplies.

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"Our team has also assisted in setting up the drive-through testing centres in Shrewsbury and Telford, to test key workers, as well as redeploying trust pool cars to the mobile community testing team.

"Moving staff around our trust to new roles needs to be documented and I am responsible for quality of data in our redeployment database."

She says staff are all working longer hours to get the right processes in place, but everyone has treated each other with kindness and respect.

"The support from colleagues has been wonderful; everyone is working so hard and being so helpful and kind to each other, I am really proud of the team I work with."

Healthcare assistant Teresa Nixon works alongside nurses at Whitchurch Community Hospital.

Teresa Nixon

Her role has not changed dramatically, but she has had to get used to wearing PPE and staff have had patients with coronavirus to care for.

"It was scary at first, but it's now the same as looking after other people who are non-Covid," she said.

Asked how she was feeling, the 57-year-old, from Whitchurch, replied: "Scared and unsure but I feel very supported by the people I work with.

"I also worry about family members.

"The support from the public and colleagues has been amazing. We are eternally grateful."

Gill Turner works within the children community nursing team.

Gill Turner

As a respite and palliative children's support worker, she works in family homes with children who have complex care needs.

She dresses for work in scrubs and full PPE and, after completing a mask testing course, also helps to fit her colleagues with the correct equipment to protect them on the front line.

"I'm just learning to be more diverse in how I work to achieve the best results," said Gill.

"I take each day as it comes as this is a forever changing environment.

"It can change by the hour never mind by the day.

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"At this time the families I visit are well and due to self-isolating they have been staying home so keeping safe and well.

"Every precaution is taken when entering and leaving, with wearing the required PPE.

"I’ve found that families are informed and are very understanding and are very happy to have the care for their child. It’s very different and can be extremely hot under full PPE."

Despite the huge challenge the NHS is facing, the 51-year-old, from Shrewsbury, says morale amongst staff is good.

She added: "There’s been great support from the community and colleagues. We also have access to local and national staff wellbeing programmes, including counsellors, which is reassuring."

As head of human resources and workforce, Sara Hayes has also had to adapt her role at a fast pace.

Sara Hayes

The teams have supported the redeployment of more than 200 staff within Shropcom to essential services, as well as a number of colleagues to work temporarily at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, which runs the county's two acute hospitals.

Some of what the team does, such as recruitment, has carried on but in a different way, using technology and social media.

"The pandemic has meant that we have had to redesign huge elements of what we do specifically to support our colleagues to continue to provide high quality patient services at this time," she said.

She says work has been "incredibly intense" and at a faster pace than normal, but staff have been supporting one another.

The 48-year-old, who lives near Shrewsbury, said: "Morale is good. Our teams conference call each other daily, and on a regular basis see each other using a social media meeting platform.

"As a team and as an organisation we have a very positive, flexible, can-do approach to everything, and we work well together and with others. That approach has really helped as small teams form inside Shropcom and across the health system to work on a particular challenge, solve it, and move on to the next thing.

"Our next challenges will be about how we gradually reintroduce business as usual, alongside the ongoing response to the pandemic."

Gaynor Williams is also vital in her role as a cook at Whitchurch Community Hospital.

Gaynor Williams

She prepares and cooks meals for patients, staff and other outside agencies, as well as taking stock and ensuring everything is up to health and safety standards.

She says staff are keeping positive and supporting each other but admitted these are "anxious and scary times".

Gaynor, who lives locally in the town, said: "We've had amazing support from the public and teams including donations of Easter eggs and chocolate.

"One patient knocked on the window to tell staff they are heroes. It made our day that someone took the time to attract our attention."

Lisa O'Brien

By Lisa O'Brien
Senior Reporter - @lisaobrien_Star

Senior reporter based at Shropshire Star's head office in Ketley. Covering the Telford area.

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