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West Suffolk Hospital's response to coronavirus pandemic praised by trade union rep back on NHS front line

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A trade union representative who is returning to the front lines of the NHS to join the battle against coronavirus has praised West Suffolk Hospital’s response to the pandemic.

Paul Pearson, UNISON Suffolk health branch secretary, is returning to his role as an operating department practitioner in theatres and critical care, helping patients with Covid-19 and those going through emergency surgery and recovery, after three years representing hospital staff.

He commended West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust for 'putting staff at the centre of its incident response'.

UNISON Suffolk Health branch secretary Paul Pearson
UNISON Suffolk Health branch secretary Paul Pearson

The hospital is currently treating 21 patients with confirmed coronavirus.

Six patients who tested positive for Covid-19 have died in the last fortnight.

The trust announced yesterday that five coronavirus patients at the hospital had recovered enough to be discharged.

West Suffolk Hospital (32914059)
West Suffolk Hospital (32914059)

During the pandemic, Mr Pearson said hospital workers have been 'kept well-informed of what’s going on through daily all-staff bulletins while existing annual leave and part-time hours have been protected unless staff want to work more'.

The trust purchased 1,000 licences to allow staff who don’t need to be at hospital to practise social distancing and work at home, while a number of non-urgent clinical areas were mothballed to free up staff to tackle Covid-19.

Mr Pearson said: “It’s been inspirational to see so many people returning to the front lines, changing their established practice and taking on 13-hour shifts, and I wanted to do my bit.

“It’s been made easier by the fantastic work done by West Suffolk Hospital in engaging staff.

“Right from the beginning, unions were involved at the highest levels of emergency workforce planning, as a result the Trust has made great efforts to support hospital & community health workers keep going, and we’ve been able to deal with the problems thrown up along the way.

“Of course West Suffolk is facing the same problems as other trusts across the country trying to prioritise stretched resources, but it’s also setting an example that the best way to deal with them is by working with unions to tap the expertise of its staff.”

Jeremy Over, director of workforce and communications for West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have a longstanding partnership with our union colleagues, and value the input, insight and contribution they give us not just in challenging times, but throughout the year.

“Looking after all our staff really matters to us.

"We’ve introduced a number of new initiatives to help support the wellbeing of our people, including making sure those who need it can access on-site or local accommodation free of charge, helping find childcare, arranging free parking, and giving access to free food and drink.

"We’ve also introduced a dedicated staff support psychology team, based on site, that staff can access directly for one-to-one support.

"We continue to do everything we can to care for them, so that they can focus on caring for our patients.”