When the Covid-19 outbreak hit the UK in March, hospitals had to act rapidly to manage the crisis – recruiting additional staff, urging retired staff to return, reorganising wards and staff rotas and also ensuring the emotional and mental wellbeing of staff was looked so they were resilient and could deliver the best care for patients.
Staff wellbeing has always been a major focus at Kettering General Hospital, but since the crisis began, this has stepped up.
The hospital’s ‘WeCare’ team is dedicated to staff wellbeing and it has introduced several new initiatives in recent months. These include the ‘We Care Café’ for staff and an ‘Open Office’ listening service where they can visit to talk to someone privately. The hospital has also set up a major operation to deliver food and grocery donations to staff – ensuring they have a free hot meal at the end of a shift and the essential provisions they need.
Jayne Chambers, Head of Strategic Corporate and Community Fundraising, has led this strategy. Seconded from her role in fundraising, Jayne was appointed as leader of the WeCare team, and her role developed very quickly and significantly.
Soon Jayne was managing a major logistics project – ensuring that over a quarter of million donations from businesses and restaurants and project were distributed to staff.
Supporting the mental wellbeing of staff
Ensuring the mental wellbeing of staff during this crisis has been another big focus. Sarah Fereday is a Mindfulness and Wellbeing Practitioner and part of the WeCare Team and she has been instrumental in providing wellbeing services.
Prior to the crisis, Sarah ran popular group-based mindfulness sessions for staff, but her role has now evolved. She is still doing one to one mindfulness sessions face to face in a room large enough to observe social distancing, or virtually, but she has helped to set up and run the new Open Office listening service, which supports staff mental wellbeing.
Sarah explains, “Covid-19 has affected all the staff both clinical and non-clinical on a professional and personal level. To support mental wellbeing, we created a new WeCare Café, which has been hugely popular. It is a really cosy place where people can go and have a free cup of tea, relax, have some peace or chat to colleagues. The cafe will remain open post crisis, but it won’t be able to run on donations then.”
“Additionally, we created an Open Office listening service located in the centre of the hospital, so it is very visible and accessible. This is a safe space, where people can come and offload their worries, they can talk confidentially to us and get support and information.
“We are open seven days a week and all staff can access our services. As well as listening, we sign post additional support services such as advice, information about EAPs, bereavement counselling and apps that can help with mindfulness or sleep. What has surprised us most is the service is being accessed by staff of different ages and is just as popular with men and women – it’s been a real success and we hope it will continue.”
Since the crisis started, staff at the hospital have been overwhelmed by the generosity of local businesses and restaurants. The food donations in particular have really supported staff who are coming off long shifts and night shifts who were unable to go the shops.
Jayne Chambers said, “We have received over a quarter of a million donations including food, scrubs, uniforms and groceries – it has been staggering. At the start of the crisis, our staff were unable to get hold of the bare necessities – they would finish a long shift and couldn’t get a hot meal as there was nothing left in the supermarkets. This particularly impacted our night shift staff. But very quickly local restaurants and businesses got in touch with us because they wanted to support the NHS in any way they could – it’s been truly amazing.”
Charity Food4Heroes has provided over 17,000 meals for KGH staff which were delivered to staff from 6th of April. A local ice cream company, Gallones Ice Cream, turned up in their van to provide nurses with tea and coffee and other necessities, The Baguetteaway food business, closed its town centre premises and moved to the hospital to support staff, and food donations were received from Weetabix, Alpro, Aldi, TUI,and Lidl and Gallarwood Catering in Northamptonshire. Oakland International also provided 24,000 packets of crisps which were given to them by an anonymous donor.
In addition, The Body Shop, Aloe Vera and Avon all provided toiletries for staff so they could freshen up after their shifts and Unilever provided domestic products such as dishwasher tablets, hand sanitiser and detergents. There were even donations from a local underwearWacoal, based in Desborough
Ensuring the successful logistics and distribution of these donations was a major challenge tackled by Jayne and her team in partnership with the Estates and Facilities Management team and porters, and the on-site Security team.
Using her management experience and skills which she had gained as in a former career in retail warehouse logistics, Jayne and her team of one substantive member of staff, two bank staff and volunteers set up a military like operation in the hospital’s recreation room.
The primary focus was to ensure the hot meals from Food4Heroes were provided to all staff and in particular night shift workers, so rotas were set up for wards and representatives would come down each day and collect the meals for all their staff.
To make things fun and exciting, Jayne and her team introduced and promoted theme days such Fizz and Chips Friday, Weetabix Wednesday, FreeFrom Fridays and even created 2500 pamper packs filled with donations which were then given to all the staff. Jayne was also able to take donations to off-site departments such as the dialysis unit which is part of Leicester hospital.
Jayne adds, “The meals will continue until the end of July in partnership with the NHS charity, but things are slowing down, and we are starting to plan for a return to normal.
“This whole experience has been amazing, and I have been so moved by the impact it has had on staff. I remember handing a meal to one lady who had come off a long shift. I said there was no need for her to cook tonight and she broke down, and then I knew we were doing the right thing.
“Whilst I can’t do the same job as the doctors and nurses, I can ensure they and all of the staff at KGH feel valued and looked after and I am really proud to have been part of a team that has done that.”