These are the staff who kept the National Health Service running during Covid-19, they work in the background booking appointments, arranging surgeries and talking to patients, but when Covid-19 struck they were all but forgotten in the Media. These are their stories of struggling through Covid-19 and the changes put in to place.
By Natalie Ball
Matilda Mottram – Maternity Admin Officer at Pinderfields Hospital.
Matilda works in the antenatal clinic in Pinderfields Hospital. During the Corona Virus Pandemic the hospital was locked down and people were not allowed to come and visit loved ones, this was especially hard when it came to visiting relatives and loved ones who had given birth during the pandemic.
“I’d say the maternity wards became a lot busier with there being more women becoming pregnant over lockdown and it also became a lot harder as the wards were patients only unless they were coming for a 12 or 20 weeks scan” says Matilda who found it hard having to turn family and friends away due to the restrictions during Covid.
“Most of the time patients were fine and understood the rules set out by the hospital but there would be patients who would get upset and not understand why they couldnt enter the appointment rooms”. These kind of situtations can be hard on staff and cause feelings of guilt and stress, stated Matilda. Staff were put in difficult situations in having to turn relatives and close family members away from wards during Covid in order to keep all patients and staff safe during these hard times.
Apart from the changes within the hospital, work didnt really change for me, I still had to go to work everyday while everybody else stayed at home, it was hard not being able to go out and see my friends and to be able to unwind after hard days at work, says Matilda.
Andrea Busfield – Booking Team Manager in Access Booking & Choice at Pinderfields Hospital.
“Working and managing teams in a busy appointments centre has had quite an impact on both myself and my staff. I have noticed a significant increase in staffs stress levels as work loads have increased. I try to stay upbeat and motivate staff as much as possible and I know how hard this lockdown has been on them. Staff sickness has also increased due to Covid as if staff show signs of Covid symptoms they have to Isolate for 14 days and also any staff they have come into contact with also have to self isolate, this meant huge pressures on the service and increased work loads shared between the staff working within the office. One of our first priorities was to ensure our staff were working in a safe environment. This meant a huge re-organisation of our working areas to achieve this and a change to working practices such as condensing hours and looking at allowing staff to work from home, which was not something we had done before.
All outpatient appointments were initially cancelled or changed to telephone appointments to limit patients coming into hospital where possible.
As the lockdown began to ease the majority of our appointments remain non face to face i.e. telephone or video consultations but there are some patients that need to be seen face to face. This has involved a huge piece of work re-mapping our outpatient areas to ensure social distancing measures are maintained in waiting areas and to allow sufficient time between patients for rooms to be cleaned down etc.
As we now enter a second lockdown, I do feel that we are better prepared to deal with it as processes are already established.”
Jacob Brown – Assistant Cancer Access and Performance Manager at Pinderfields Hospital.
“COVID created new ways of working and new systems having to be put in place. We did save time in many places though by doing meeting over Microsoft Teams instead of walking to other areas of the hospital, but it also created larger workloads as we had to create more email documentation of discussions that had taken place during the meetings to share with staff and keep them updated.
During lockdown staff needing more emotional and mental support due to things changing significantly inside of work and outside of work. We had to totally change the office layout to create social distancing for staff and follow hospital guidelines.
Lots of new information needing to be captured on the cancer database in regards to patients and Covid-19 which increased workloads and stress levels for staff.
There was a huge shift in demands from services and constant moving of staff to support with sickness and annual leave as a result of Covid, this impacted staffs mental health and wellbeing subtantially.”
Julie Ball – Lead Administrator in the research department at Pinderfields Hospital.
Julie works within the research department at Pinderfields Hospital. During lockdown she took the difficult decision to retire and return due to overwhelming stress within the work place.
Working from home due to having to shield as I was classed as a vunerable worker caused my anxiety levels to rise significantly. Working from home was extremely difficult due to lack of communication from the team as they were still within the office environment where they would work a week in the office and a week from work so would have updated contact and general information delievered to them from there, says Julie.
When lockdown happened things were slow to get set up and I had limited resources at home, I had to work from my old laptop until I could have a computer set up for me. We then heard rumours that home working staff were not doing as much work at home which caused anxiety and frustration within the team and myself. We felt as though we needed to prove we were working and contributing all the time.
When lockdown was eased in August and people started to return to the office work loads increased substancially. We had nurses entering the offices on a regular basis bombarding us with jobs they wanted completing, this was hard for some of us you still continued to work from home 50% of the week and we suddenly felt overwhelmed by it all.
Sometimes I think office staff get ignored, but our voices count also, we need to be listened to when we say we cant cope and we need better procedures put in place to protect our mental health and Covid-19 has only made this more obvious now stated Julie.
I have loved my job and I love working for the NHS. I feel like when we take a job within the NHS, even admin, we take on signing up for any circumstances, especially ones like these and making sure patients are seen and cared for is our top priority, but we need our health taken care of as well and we need to be listened to and we need to be seen.
Leon Ball – Facilities Technician and Fire Response crew at Leeds General Infirmary.
Leon works two jobs at Leeds General Infirmary, his part time job is assisting the emergency helicopters landing as on stand by Fire Response Crew. Leon main full time job is as a Facilites Tecnician.
During the first lockdown Leon helped set up ICU wards for Corona virus patients. During the Pandemic he would mainly move Covid patients around the hospital, for this he has to wear full PPE to protect himself from the virus.
There was a solid month were I didnt really see anybody, not even my son because I worked long hours in work, I moved patients around wards as they made more space for more Covid patients. I would also move patients to the morgue who had died from Covid. One day while I was at work was particularly hard as I had to move a Nurse who had died from Covid to the morgue. This had a huge impact on my mental wellbeing as we didnt know when it was going to end, these were very uncertain times and very scary times for safe working within the hospital, they were difficult times for us all, patients and staff as a whole. I would come home emotionally drained from it all. It was hard not being able to see my son as much as he lived with his mum in Wakefield and due to restrictions and me working in a high risk enviroment I didnt want to risk their health either, says Leon”.
Since the lockdown was relaxed in August I get to see my son more now which I am thankful for and we try to spend as much time together outdoors and enjoying our freedom again.
I look forward to things going back to a bit of normality, me and my colleague’s have worked hard during the lockdown, we have cared for and comforted each other but sometimes I just feel we can be forgotten. I think during the Pandemic people have come to see that we are an important cog within the NHS as a whole and I hope that it stays that way because cleaners, porters, health assistants are just as important as Doctors and Nurses.