This week I have joined colleagues from across Blackpool Teaching Hospitals to reflect and remember everything we have been through over the past year.
It is almost 12 months to the day since we admitted our first patient with Covid-19. A milestone in our history and receiving that news is a moment that I will never forget.
Just a few days later, we sadly lost our first patient to the virus and so began the most harrowing period any of us have experienced in recent NHS history.
Whilst I am immensely proud to have been part of the response to the pandemic, both here in the Trust, at East Lancashire Hospitals too and also as part of the wider health and social care system, it doesn’t feel like a moment to celebrate.
So instead we have enacted a week to simply be together, to ‘take a moment’ to reflect and remember everything we have been through and to continue to check in and offer support to each other.
We began the week with a live event of remembrance held virtually on the Trust’s video conferencing network, as has become the norm through the past 12 months.
This type of previously impersonable, online gathering would have been unthinkable before the onset of Covid but it turned out to be very moving and something that, I think, touched everyone who took part.
We were joined by Father Andrew Dawson from the Trust’s spiritual team who helped us to reflect, led a minute’s silence in memory of those we have lost and read the unauthored poem ‘Hope’:
The team has done so much to support both staff and patients and their families, there really was no one better to provide that insight.
We also thanked each other, shared our own reflections of the past year and played a short but poignant video which illustrated just some of what we have dealt with.
Many colleagues found it moving and emotional. It was sombre in nature but it was probably always going to be. If you would like to take a moment and reflect and remember, you would be welcome to watch the video below.
Following on from this, myself and other managers have been out to see as many teams across the Trust as possible – to check in on colleagues, say hello and ‘how are you’ and ensure everyone has access to any support they might need.
Of course we have said a huge and heartfelt thank you to everyone too – and I cannot tell you how emotional this has been for people. Just to know their experience has been acknowledged, that we recognise their contribution and that they are valued and cared for has been so powerful for many.
It is testament to the natural way of most NHS staff, though, that they readily underplay what they have done. Words like ‘only’ and ‘just’ and ‘we haven’t had it as bad as colleagues in intensive or critical care’ were abundant from people who appeared from behind ward curtains, from discreet doors in walls on our corridors or from one of our many, many wards.
They have been there – grafting, caring, doing – each and every day.
They have been in early, stayed late and worked through planned annual leave or breaks.
They have quietly ‘got on with it’ and then they have gone home to all of the challenges and fears and worries the same as everyone else.
Make no mistake their contribution has been huge and we owe them a debt we can never repay.
In the video you will see that we have lost over 750 patients since March 2020. It has been utterly devastating and the emotional burden has been incredibly high for everyone.
Colleagues who don’t usually work on the front line told me how they were redeployed to places they had never been and saw things they can now never unsee. Still, the next day they did it again.
For this reason, if you watch on just a couple of seconds you will see that we have also cared for more than 2,000 people who have returned home to their loved ones and continued their lives, often against all odds or expectations.
Each and every person in this Trust has contributed to this immense and sustained effort. Each one of them amazing in their own way. Each one I encourage to feel proud of their part.
I’ve been glad to take a moment this week and see as many people as possible and just say thanks. It has been inspiring and uplifting in many ways.
If I can ask one thing from you in return, please continue to follow the restrictions and the roadmap for easing them. With the vaccine rollout and by working together we can continue to get back to normal. That would be something to really celebrate.