There has been much reflection about our response to Covid nationally in the media this week as we approach the anniversary of the first infected patient in the UK.
It has been a long and difficult year for everyone and our hearts go out to those families that have lost loved ones to this cruel virus. It has hit Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre hard as an area suffering significant deprivation. Staff have lost much loved colleagues at the Trust and people in their own lives too and we mustn’t forget the extraordinary emotional toll they are bearing each day looking after patients in their last moments, as well as providing support to their families. These experiences will take some considerable time to comes to terms with and may never fully heal.
I want to take this moment to pay tribute to the whole team for their hard work and dedication. This pandemic isn’t over but as we look back over the last year it does feel as though we can also look forward with hope that this will end.
My thanks goes out to everyone equally, not just those front line teams in the emergency department or in critical care but everyone in every department who has contributed to a true and sustained response and just the most exhausting experience. The team has and continues to demonstrate great courage and spirit. I could not be more proud to be part of it.
In looking to the future we are making plans to recover and restore when the time is right. The biggest priority will be to support staff to take some away from work, spend time with family and simply rest.
There’s no doubt we have learned a lot and made some huge improvements and I’m keen to understand what we have learned, celebrated the innovation and good practice established and capture ideas for the future as part of our healing process. We’ll be listening to staff and encouraging them to be part of the conversation. I believe the challenge is not just to restore the Trust but to take the moment as an opportunity to work differently. If we are to successfully catch up on the months of routine care and treatment this will be paramount.
There is some positive news to bolster our energy levels and hopes. The total number of inpatients at both the Vic and Clifton hospitals with Covid has reduced in line with a drop in the number of people infected in communities across Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre. We do still have a high number of inpatients who are very poorly indeed but any signs at all that Covid is declining should be welcomed.
Thank you to everyone who continues to support us with well wishes and, in particular, by following the rules. Staying at home, wearing a face mask when you do go out, maintaining social distancing and observing strict hand hygiene at all times are making a difference and will help us to get on top of this horrific disease.
We continue to closely manage our resources each day and have postponed some elective surgery to release staff to wards where they are most needed. I will apologise again for the disappointment and stress this causes but offer my personal guarantee that we are tracking patients very closely day to day and if we can get you in for your treatment, we will.
There’s no doubt in my mind the magnificent effort to get the mass vaccination centres up and running is one of the most important elements of the strategy to control Covid in the UK and this week I was delighted to see one of the largest in the UK opened at Blackpool’s historic Winter Gardens. I was privileged to be there when the first vaccines were administered to the most vulnerable people in the community. It was talismanic that those same people were sharing stories about attending events there in the past and I hope we get this building back to this purpose very, very soon.
The team is also working hard to prevent outbreaks of Covid in hospital and to identify staff or patients who have the virus before they’re able to infect someone else. I know how important this is and I am pleased we are controlling this risk through regular testing, including staff who are showing no symptoms at all.
As testament to our overall approach, a team of regional NHS colleagues visited the Vic last week and provided some very positive feedback about infection prevention activity. In fact, they identified and took some good practice away to share across the NHS. This is a fantastic achievement for all the staff – who continue to fight this virus on every front possible. I’m not surprised their determination and tenacity is being used to inspire others.
We have also been commended for our approach to managing oxygen supplies, which have been in very high demand in recent weeks. Work carried out as part of our initial response in Spring last year means we can monitor and manage our supply proactively and I’m pleased we have this assurance in place.
I want to mention also that we welcomed colleagues from Health Education England North West who support our junior doctors with their training. We will receive a formal report in due course with actions to help us continually improve, but on the whole the feedback was positive and they were impressed with our approach to medical education.
Lastly, a really great development at the Vic this week where we opened the first phase of our new Emergency Village – an upgraded, extended and enhanced waiting room and minor injuries area which is a huge investment and improvement for local people. The area will treat non-life-threatening emergency illnesses and injuries and the quality of it is outstanding. Thank you to everyone who has been involved – don’t underestimate the huge difference it will make to staff and patients.
Please do let me know any feedback you have about the blog, what you would like to hear about or any questions you have. It is all welcome and appreciated.