Peterborough City Hospital chief's pride at how staff have tackled COVID on the front line a year after the first cases in the city

The chief executive of North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust - which runs Peterborough City Hospital - has spoken of her pride at how the team has tackled the COVID pandemic head on, a year after the first cases were confirmed in the city

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 5:00 am

The first COVID patient was treated at Peterborough City Hospital on March 16 last year, and since then the trust had cared for more than 2,000 patients.

Sadly since that first patient arrived, 463 people have sadly lost their lives at Peterborough City Hospital in deaths related to coronavirus (up to March 16).Speaking to The Peterborough Telegraph, trust Chief Executive, Caroline Walker spoke of her pride at how the staff at the hospitals had worked through the pandemic in incredibly difficult circumstances.

Ms Walker said; "This year has been a year like no other, and every member of staff, working in every role, has been impacted by this pandemic.

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"We have tackled a number of extreme challenges during the year, most notably the increased pressures on our bed capacity due to the number of Covid patients, and the prolonged time period we have all worked to fight the virus.

"This has taken a huge toll on our staff physically and mentally, but I am so proud of how resilient and dedicated our workforce has been and how supportive of one another they have been.

"I can’t describe the pride I feel to head in to work each day."

Ms Walker described the last year as 'one of the biggest crises the NHS has faced' - but said the spirit shown by everyone had helped staff get through it.

She said; "It has been, without doubt, one of the biggest crises the NHS has faced and I am sure I speak on behalf of our staff when I say they haven’t ever had to endure something quite so challenging in their entire careers.

"It has been an incredibly difficult year for everyone, not being able to create lasting memories with loved ones or friends and feeling isolated from the outside world.

"Despite that, our staff have continued to work for our Trust, either on site on the frontline of our fight against Covid or supporting us with home working. Every effort has been appreciated and we can all feel very proud of the fact we helped to keep the country and the world safe during this pandemic.

"Our staff have really been impacted by the situation both personally and professionally. I am proud of how supportive they have been to one another. As a Trust we will continue to place their health and wellbeing at the forefront of our plans to ensure they continue to receive emotional and physical wellbeing support, and that we can all begin to recover from the effects of living and working through a pandemic. As we see the number of cases reduce daily, we are all feeling more positive that the worst of this pandemic is behind us."

She also praised the support shown by Peterborough residents throughout the past 12 months. She said: "I would like to personally thank our local communities for their continued support. The donations, kind words and clap for carers’ initiative have all helped to raise morale and support our staff across our sites. We are extremely grateful for your thoughts and your kindness."

While the first few cases in our region were confirmed a year ago, it had been clear to the team at the hospital that the virus was going to be a significant challenge at the hospital for some time. Mr Walker said: "Public Health England were closely tracking the outbreaks being seen across the world and in Europe specifically. As soon as our NHS colleagues in London were hit with significant pressures, we knew that this virus could spread north to affect our locality."

However, the trust did have some preparations in place for the pandemic. Ms Walker said; ""As a Trust we had a pandemic plan just in case, but we never expected to use it for so long. "Our Hospital Control Team had already met several times ahead of the first UK cases being identified and planning was in place to ensure that our hospitals could cope with the expected pressures of the first wave.

"When our first Covid-19 inpatient was admitted to Peterborough City Hospital on the 16 March 2020, I never expected our staff to still be fighting the virus a year later. However, as the first wave progressed and we learnt more about the virus, we soon realised this would become a marathon rather than a sprint.

"We have had to adapt to a lot of unforeseen circumstances. At times, the evolving situation has changed quickly, so we have had to react with little or no warning – especially at the beginning. Our main priority has always been to protect the safety of our patients and our staff – and this continues today.

"At the start of the pandemic, a lot of our concerns and issues were around providing safe ward spaces and Personal Protective Equipment to our staff. Government guidance was updated frequently and there was a constant flurry of new information to keep up with and implement across our sites.

"Our Hospital Control Team, along with the Bronze, Silver and Gold command teams that have operated daily since the beginning of the pandemic, have overseen the many changes we’ve had to make to the way we run our hospitals and treat our patients.

"We have had to create ‘red’ (Covid) and ‘green’ (non-Covid) areas for treating patients, swapping extra wards from green to red when needed in order to segregate our Covid patients. This was necessary to ensure we could protect all of our patients.

"Staff have been redeployed to different roles across our hospitals and they have gone above and beyond to ensure that patients have the support they need.

"Our hospitals look different: everyone is wearing facemasks, social distancing is being adhered to and signage is in place to remind people of this. We have become a more digitally-oriented organisation, as internal meetings and some patient appointments are taking place virtually.

"We have staff shielding but who are still providing a vital service from home. Also, we have restricted visiting in our hospitals.

"This was a hugely difficult decision to implement, but a necessary decision in order to protect everyone.

Along with the incredible work of all the hospital staff, Ms Walker said one of the things she was most proud of was the City Hospital being selected as a vaccine hub - and some of the research projects that have taken place on how. to beat the virus.

She said; "I am immensely proud of our response over the past year. All of our staff, both clinical and non-clinical, have been incredibly dedicated to ensuring that all patients,

both Covid and non-Covid, have received the care and support they require.

"Staff have provided excellent peer support to one another, learned from one another and brought the best out in one another. They have cared for our patients and for one

another incredibly well.

"It was a fantastic moment when Peterborough City Hospital was announced as one of the first 50 hospital hubs to administer the first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.

"Since early December 2020 we have been administering the vaccine at our Peterborough site and from January our Hinchingbrooke site. The vaccination team has worked tirelessly to ensure that vaccines can be delivered in a safe and timely manner.

"We have also played an instrumental role in research projects, helping to provide ital insight into the behaviour of this virus and how best to treat against it.

"Patients and staff have volunteered to join a number of research trials that have helped the treatment of the virus across the country.

"We did learn a lot from the first wave of cases, our staff played a vital role in this by providing the Trust feedback on our response. Following their feedback we have adapted and communicated better with them in the second wave."