West Suffolk Hospital’s staff engagement helping it to battle Covid-19, says union rep returning to the front line

A trade union rep returning to the front lines of the NHS to join the battle against Covid-19 today praised West Suffolk Hospital’s response to the pandemic.

UNISON Suffolk Health branch secretary Paul Pearson is returning to his role as an operating department practitioner in theatres and critical care, helping patients with Covid-19 and those going through emergency surgery and recovery, after three years representing hospital staff.

He commended the West Suffolk Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for putting staff at the centre of its incident response.

It’s meant that hospital workers have been kept well-informed of what’s going on through daily “all-staff bulletins” while existing annual leave and part-time hours have been protected unless staff want to work more, said Mr Pearson.

The Trust quickly purchased 1,000 licences to allow staff who don’t need to be at hospital to practise social distancing and work at home, while a number of non-urgent clinical areas were mothballed to free up staff to tackle Covid-19, with all the training necessary.

UNISON Suffolk Health branch secretary Paul Pearson said: “It’s been inspirational to see so many people returning to the front lines, changing their established practice and taking on 13-hour shifts, and I wanted to do my bit.

“It’s been made easier by the fantastic work done by West Suffolk Hospital in engaging staff.

“Right from the beginning, unions were involved at the highest levels of emergency workforce planning, as a result the Trust has made great efforts to support hospital & community health workers keep going, and we’ve been able to deal with the problems thrown up along the way.

“Of course West Suffolk is facing the same problems as other Trusts across the country trying to prioritise stretched resources, but it’s also setting an example that the best way to deal with them is by working with unions to tap the expertise of its staff.”