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Staff at Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have been stepping up to help support patients and the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic by swapping their day jobs for essential front line roles.

The CCG’s ‘business as usual’ and office-based functions, such as developing new services, negotiating contracts and reviewing finances, have changed dramatically to allow staff to focus on managing the pandemic and to free up staff who can be redeployed to the front line.

The new ‘normal’ for all CCG staff has meant changing work patterns, adapting to working from home and working hard in alternative roles within the organisation to help deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

As well as administrative staff, the CCG employs many clinical staff who have voluntarily returned to support care in a variety of settings such as hospital wards, community nursing, residential care homes, mental health units and COVID-19 testing centres.

Sandra Corry, Director of Quality and Nursing, said: “We are so proud of our staff and the work they are doing to support the Somerset system and communities at this difficult time, both providing direct care and advice or working behind the scenes.

“Whilst some of our staff have been able to put their uniforms back on and support our local NHS services, others have been instrumental in ensuring that, for example, there has been enough PPE for those who need it, and the appropriate infection prevention and control support, advice and guidance is available to our care homes and primary care colleagues.”

Among those who have been redeployed is Melanie Munday, Deputy Designated Safeguarding Nurse with the CCG. A qualified nurse for 20 years, Mel found herself back in uniform and working 12-hour shifts at Yeovil Hospital.

Mel said: “I felt like a student again at first and a bit nervous, but a sick patient is a sick patient and you never forget how to ‘nurse’ someone. I particularly enjoyed spending time talking with patients who were not able to have any visitors.

“The biggest learning curve was getting used to the technology now used to monitor patients, but the hospital staff were very welcoming and refresher training was provided.”

Hugh Archibald, the CCG’s Quality Lead for Urgent Care and Risk Management, started his career as a district nurse but his years of experience working in intensive care made him a perfect fit for the intensive care unit (ICU) at Yeovil Hospital.

Hugh said: “I looked after either one or two patients based on their acuity. It involved all the things I had long forgotten about: three hourly turning of patients (which seems simple, but when there are a number of machines, endless wires and infusion lines and your own PPE to top it off, it really becomes quite a task); ward rounds; hourly observations; seemingly never ending drug preparation. And I loved it!

“The amount of PPE that we had to wear was almost unbearable. When I was struggling on certain days having to wear the equipment for 12 hours with not much break to recover; I thought to those in China, Italy and London who had already been in the thick of it for weeks.

“I really enjoyed working with the team on the ground in ICU and there were great success stories with patients. You could really see the difference you were making to people’s lives at the sharp end of healthcare.”

Louise Frackiewicz is normally a CCG Continuing Healthcare Nurse Assessor, but swiftly answered the call to return to her previous role as a district nurse, at South Petherton Hospital.

Louise said: “Not knowing where I would be working caused me some anxiety especially as by then the pandemic was escalating and the reality of what I had volunteered to do hit me.

“However I found it all came back quickly and before I knew it I was dressing wounds, taking blood, bandaging legs and catheterising patients again. The team were so welcoming and didn’t seem to mind when I asked lots of questions or rang them to say I was lost!

“One of the hardest things has been wearing full PPE in the hot weather in patients’ houses. Several times I felt faint and it was easy to get dehydrated. It is harder to communicate with patients when wearing a facemask and it takes longer to get in and out of someone’s house.

“It has been a privilege to work with this team; they have all worked so hard in such a difficult time and have delivered excellent care to their patients. It has been wonderful to work in a clinical setting again. This wasn’t something I had anticipated having to do, however I am glad to have had the opportunity.”

Jane Harris, Head of Communications and Engagement, was asked by NHS England and Improvement to join the NHS Nightingale Hospital Bristol (NHB) as Director of Communications supporting the building and preparation of a new hospital – in just three weeks.

Jane said: “For the first month I pretty much lived and breathed NHB, living out of a suitcase in the Holiday Inn Filton while we developed our story, set up our communications channels, built our website and intranet, networked with our system partners and created a range of resources for social media.

“It has simultaneously been both the most fun I have ever had at work and the scariest job I have ever had. I remember standing in the hospital as the first beds were wheeled into the bays and feeling completely sick and overwhelmed that we might be facing a situation where every one of the 301 beds contained a critically ill patient.

“I have had the privilege of working with completely amazing people from NHS organisations across our region as well as the military, people from the events industry, contractors, volunteers and many others who have inspired me on a daily basis and helped maintain our focus, drive and vision.”