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West Suffolk Hospital chief Steve Dunn praises the attitude and achievements of his staff

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The last time I wrote this column, in December, Margaret Keenan had just become the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer Covid-19 jab.

Fast forward just two months and the vaccination programme is well under way across the country and closer to home – with more than 10 million people in the United Kingdom and more than 159,000 in Suffolk and North Essex having received their first Covid-19 vaccine.

If you have seen the news on your televisions, you will see how much of a monumental effort vaccinating a country is.

Steve Dunn (44349407)
Steve Dunn (44349407)

Both retired and current beloved NHS staff are working hard to welcome every single person being vaccinated so that we can fight this disease. From racecourses and football stadiums, through to GP surgeries and community halls, vaccination centres have been set up to support this nationwide effort and it’s wonderful to see.

While every vaccine given takes us closer to the potential of having ‘normality’ in our lives again, it’s important not to lose sight of how challenging this last year has been. Time and again staff at our Trust have gone above and beyond in caring for patients within our hospital and the community, showing passion, dedication and flexibility – it has been truly humbling.

Since the start of the pandemic, many aspects of our jobs have changed. Some members of our staff have moved teams, developed new skills and helped to provide services in different ways. Many have taken on new roles to ensure we are able to both care for those with Covid-19, and offer support for west Suffolk patients who need our help who do not have the virus.

A great example of this is the development of the keeping in touch team who have worked very hard to continue to help patients speak to their loved-ones over video and phone calls particularly while visiting restrictions have been in place. We also have a new staff psychology support team developed to focus on the wellbeing of colleagues who are dealing with possibly the most difficult times the NHS has ever experienced. We have utilised technology like never before. For example, using video calls to help expectant parents ask important questions to our experienced midwifery and maternity services every week.

Despite the huge challenges that coronavirus has brought, there have been examples in our Trust where standards are not only being maintained but actually flourishing. At the end of last year, we found out that the high quality of our endoscopy services has been nationally recognised by the Royal College of Physicians. The catering at our hospital also won the Hospital Catering Award at the Health Business Awards – highlighting the incredible work they do to ensure quality food for staff, visitors and patients.

While our Trust is home to clinical and non-clinical staff members, it’s also somewhere our hardworking and loyal volunteers spend hours of their free time to help patients and staff all week long. I want to thank every volunteer who has been part of our vaccination programme since we started last month as well as ex-NHS staff who have taken the decision to come out of retirement to help administer vaccinations alongside former colleagues. Seeing your faces around our Trust again is a brilliant feeling and goes a long way in showing how much of a family we are.

Finally, it would be naïve to make predictions for what 2021 will bring based on what the last 12 months has shown us. However, there is a lot of hope ahead of us as a Trust and as the population of west Suffolk. While hope is there, it has never been more important to keep being vigilant in following government guidelines to protect yourselves, your family and the NHS. I understand that this lockdown has been harder than the first – we haven’t got the warm weather to improve things, but every sacrifice we make now will go a long way to ensuring we have normality back sooner.

-- Steve Dunn is chief executive of West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

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