NHS staff in West Sussex reflect on 12 months of battling Covid-19 on the frontline

Exactly one year ago, the unexpected happened and the lives of the entire nation changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the first lockdown. Those working for the NHS through the crisis were hit hardest as they bravely battled on the frontline to save lives - coping with great change and sometimes risking their own lives to help those who had fallen seriously ill with the virus.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 10:29 am
West Sussex respiratory team
West Sussex respiratory team

Now, one year on, we look back on the past 12 months and thank the wonderful NHS staff by taking a glimpse inside our West Sussex hospitals to explore the roller coaster journey they have endured.

Jiffrey Sudario, healthcare assistant on the enhanced surgical care unit at Worthing hospital, has been supporting colleagues in intensive care.

He said: “I was very nervous before my first day on Covid ITU, but those nerves quickly disappeared thanks to my incredibly supportive colleagues.

West Sussex's sterile services team

“The ward staff showed me the ropes, and I helped out as a runner. The ITU was full and busy. I didn’t go into the actual ward as you need to be fitted for a specialist protective face mask, which I didn’t have.

“It was amazing to hear my colleagues walking in and out of the ITU talking about patients responding to treatment and getting better.

“On my next shift, we discharged one patient from ITU to the main Covid wards, and everyone was happy and smiling. I feel proud to witness this.

“The following day, I asked to be fitted for the protective mask, so that I can go in and help my colleagues care for patients in any way I can. I don’t feel scared now, I feel strong, confident and supported.”

Mike Rymer was brought out of retirement to help battle the virus

Deborah Dykes, clinical specialist respiratory physiotherapist at St Richard’s Hospital, shares her reflections and thanks everyone who supported them in Covid-19 critical care.

She said: “As respiratory physiotherapists, we treat all patients in critical care and respiratory wards, helping with resolving pneumonia symptoms, positioning to help their lungs inflate, and weaning them off the ventilator support when ready.

“We also provide rehabilitation to build strength and improve lung function when the time is right.

“During the pandemic, we also supported colleagues in Covid-19 critical care, which was a true privilege.

Louise Goodall

“We were very grateful to everyone who came to help us with our roles, including paediatrics, orthopaedics, outpatients, women’s health and neuro teams. They were out of their comfort zones but willing to do anything under guidance. I know a number of staff who had moments when it all felt too daunting, which we helped each other through.

“We’ve all developed courage we didn’t realise we had.

“Having heard feedback from patients who survived the first wave, we were determined to improve and make things as bearable as possible.

“We knew how hard it was for patients when they first opened their eyes to see us dressed like that at a time when they needed a friendly and familiar face.

Jiffrey Sudario was pleased to offer his help ICU

“Our lovely occupational therapists helped us with this by contacting their relatives to find out all about them as a person, their likes, their dislikes, their music taste, names of people important to them. We printed photos for them and made sure we talked about the people they loved.”

The pandemic has seen many staff within the NHS change their roles to help with the demand created by coronavirus and the central sterile services department is a prime example. The team been helping A&E staff at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, with rapid 90-minute Covid-19 testing.

Kathleen Houghton, business and development lead for core division, said: “The team stepped up without hesitation and used their skills in a different way to support the hospital’s response to Covid-19.

“They’re always happy and keen to help and learn. We’re so proud of what they’ve achieved, going above and beyond to do so, and putting the patient at the centre of everything they do.”

Glen Spruce, clinical site manager at St Richard’s, said: “The CSSD team have been brilliant and essential in helping with the flow of patients.

“They’ve taken on this new role with ease. They’ve gone above and beyond by staying later at weekends to clear the backlog of remaining swabs, ensuring patients get their results.

“So, a big thank you from myself and the site team.”

Sharon Dormer and Louise Goodall have thanked everyone in the practice development team in Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who quickly adopted new ways of working throughout the pandemic to ensure that staff remained supported in their education and training.

Sharon said: “We’re experienced nurses, who support the education and training of student nurses, health care assistants and registered nurses throughout their career. We provide educational, emotional, practical and clinical support.”

Louise said: “During the pandemic, we quickly adopted a digital way of working to help with remote learning. It was challenging but exciting to learn new skills and try different approaches. We’re thankful to the team for being so accommodating and accepting.”

Retired consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Mike Rymer was one of the many brought out of retirement to help in the battle against Covid.

He helped Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust with the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

He said: “We were on hand to provide medical cover and support the vaccination team, seven days a week. The vaccination hub was superbly run, and it was fantastic to be part of that.

“We answered any questions people had relating to the vaccine.

“It was great to support our former colleagues and contribute to the fight against Covid.”

Many NHS workers have caught Covid. Bognor Regis nurse Momodou Bojang, who works at Arundel and District Community Hospital for Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, was one of those who tested positive for the virus. He recovered from Covid at his Bognor Regis home and is now celebrating good news after being accepted on a training course. Momodou has secured a place on a course for the UK’s most outstanding healthcare workers just a few months after recovering from Covid-19.

He said he was delighted to be accepted.