Day by day we have watched the streets around us grow quieter and stiller. As we hunker down under self-isolation, there is some solace in the realisation that deep down, all of us share the same ideals. Set aside the politics and we have discovered that we each yearn for family, friends and a stronger sense of community.
Whilst many of us are able to reflect on what is important in our lives, there are still key workers who go out each day to work, many of whom are battling on the NHS front line against this invisible and potentially deadly virus.
I spoke with some of Surrey’s key workers to find out what they are doing and their reflections on the global pandemic. Some preferred not to be named but wanted to share their actions, concerns and advice with the public.
Whilst all schools have closed their doors to pupils, there is still a small number of staff who attend each day. There are the teachers who supervise pupils as well as the catering teams who provide food for families with children in receipt of free school meals.
Like all schools across the nation, Hinchley Wood School in Esher has been preparing and providing these families with boxes of essential items. Every two weeks, a food package will be put together. The boxes are prepared with care and each item included is well thought through to provide for a family. The offer will continue within all schools until the FSM voucher scheme begins, which may not start for another month.
The school is also leading an approach across Surrey Secondary Schools to supply science laboratory goggles to the NHS. Schools in Kingston, Richmond and many other parts of the country have got involved. Hinchley Wood School’s headteacher Ben Bartlett explained, “thus far, Surrey schools have promised in excess of 2,000 pairs of goggles that we will collect and distribute to doctor’s surgeries and hospitals from St Peter’s to St George’s and beyond. Here at Hinchley Wood School we have washed, dried and boxed up 450 pairs so far.”
Every school across Surrey is looking at what they can do to best serve their local community during these times of confusion and anxiety.
Police and PCSOs
We often forget that those who are out each day with the public return home to their partners and children.
I spoke to a husband and wife who both work in the Police force. They have lost their childcare due to grandparents self-isolating. This means that often their shifts are at opposite ends of the day; as one person comes home to their children, the other leaves for work.
Their point was clear. They are risking themselves and their families by spending each day out with the public. They told me that they “have to carry on and keep people safe even though it is a daunting and scary time for us all. We want people to stay home and stay safe – we have families too and we want to protect them as much as possible.”
Critical Care Pharmacist, Surrey
I spoke with a critical care pharmacist and asked her what her thoughts were during this crisis. She has worked in a Surrey district general hospital since 2016.
She told us, “the clapping on Thursday night was great, I love that you love the NHS but what I really want is for you to all obey the social distancing and self-isolation requirements. Stay indoors and stay well. This really will keep the hospitals functioning in an orderly and safe manner.”
She continued with some advice on using your local pharmacy: “I work in a large hospital so have the support of a great team around me. Have some sympathy for your community pharmacists. With GP surgeries shut and only doing telephone consultations in most cases, community pharmacists are often the only easily accessible healthcare that is still open. They are dealing with all their usual workload (and they were stretched before) as well as trying to provide over the counter medicines and advice. Don’t panic order your medicines. There is plenty in the supply chain if you order your medicines as usual. Don’t go to your pharmacy if you have a cough or temperature. Instead, follow the NHS guidance and advice.”
Senior Nurse, Surrey
A senior nurse in Surrey expressed how emotionally and physically tough it is working on the front line during this crisis. As with most hospitals across Surrey, many of the units that were once used for centres such as orthopaedics have now been turned into COVID-ITUs. There are ventilated beds ready and there is an expectation that they will all be used. The staff are preparing for an influx and they are currently upskilling all of their nurses so that they can look after the patients that are admitted. This is not a simple task and requires a great deal of work in time-limited circumstances.
Her advice to everyone was simply, “stay safe and stay indoors as much as possible. It is imperative that everyone takes this seriously; you cannot see who is infected or where the infection might be.” With a limited number of beds, it is vital that we keep the numbers low for those who need to be admitted to hospital.
Community Rehabilitation Teams
Once patients are discharged from the hospital the care does not end there. Many teams within the NHS have been grouped up with Community Rehabilitation Teams to aid the support and discharge of patients safely into their homes. This support is vital as it seeks to avoid readmission into acute hospitals.
One person I spoke to within this team told me that they are “using resources to provide basic essentials to ensure our Surrey communities are well looked after. It is so rewarding to see the commitment and passion of those working within the NHS where we continually put patients as our priority.”
What You Can Do
Understandably we lament our lack of freedom and miss being outdoors with friends and family. But while we are safe at home, there are all the front-line key workers who go out there every day to look after us. The very least we can do is remain home and stop the spread of the virus. It is the only way to protect ourselves, our key workers and society as a whole.
Just remember this simple plea from all of the workers who are keeping the country running: “We came to work for you. Please stay home for us.”