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The steepest of learning curves: Leading Weldmar’s Health & Safety response through Covid

To mark World Patient Safety Day, we discover how health and safety at Weldmar has adapted during the pandemic

Andy Jackson is Weldmar Hospicecare’s Health and Safety Adviser. Quite a task to take on at any time, let alone throughout Covid-19 … and when you’ve only been qualified for a matter of weeks.

“I took on the responsibility for health and safety late last year”, says Andy, “and went on some fairly intensive training courses before passing the tests in February.  It was only a month before we went into lockdown, so when that happened I had a lot of people looking in my direction for answers.  It was all very much a joint effort with the team here, but certainly for me personally it was a huge learning curve.”

Andy admits those early days of the lockdown are a bit of a blur now.  “There was so much going on, and we were all trying to interpret the data and directives that were coming to us from government.  They were quite broad brushed, so we had to interpret what it meant for us, and for our different teams and departments.  One thing that does stick in my mind from that time is the lack and shortage of PPE.  At the start, we didn’t even know what PPE was required, which was the single most difficult thing.  Nobody knew, but then once we did, going out to the marketplace when everyone else is trying to get it at the same time was very frustrating.”

It goes without question that a hospice needs to have first class infection prevention measures at any time, but nothing could quite prepare the Weldmar infection team for Covid, explains Andy.  “We looked at what we would do in an outbreak, and how not to let infections spread, which is something that we’ve always been good at in the hospice, but this was totally new.  We had the infection prevention processes in place so we didn’t really change how we worked, but instead upgraded them to a whole new level.  As the new science and data comes out, you have to be able to change very quickly.  Without the team we’ve got at the hospice, with Director of Nursing Caroline Sweetland playing a key role, we wouldn’t have been able to keep up.”

In fact, Andy is full of praise for all staff.  “There has been total commitment from everyone.  I’ve been going around, putting up posters and notices saying how many people can be in one room at the same time, and that you can’t make a cup of tea for a colleague, but there has been no problems at all – everyone has understood and appreciated the reasons we have done it.”

There has been a determination not to let Covid stop Weldmar’s key services, but Day Services, which runs daily in different locations around the county, found themselves forced to cancel all sessions between March and early July.  Support was provided to these patients with regular phone calls, but Andy explains that they worked hard to get the service back up and running again as early as possible.  “I was really, really keen to help Jenny Wood get Day Services going again, because it is such an important thing to so many people, especially those who were socially isolated during the lockdown.  Rather than focus on why we shouldn’t do it, we tried to work out how we could do it, so we risk assessed, we visited all the buildings, spoke to the other hospitals, and put together their safety measures and our safety measures to make it work.”

Now, Day Services are running again in all locations – Weymouth, Dorchester, Bridport, and Blandford – except Shaftesbury.  The location of the room used at Westminster Memorial Hospital is in the middle of a busy ward area, and it has been deemed not safe for their patients or ours at the present time.

As the situation with the pandemic develops, and longer term challenges become a little clearer, the focus for the health and safety team is facilitating the return to work for support staff, who have been largely working from home.  “One of the key elements to controlling coronavirus is the amount of fresh air you can create inside buidings; the more the better.  Combining this with strict social distancing makes for a safer workspace.  We want people to be able to return to work, but we need to do it safely, which is why we’re making changes to create more space in offices, rooms, and other spaces.  It all contributes to making Weldmar as safe a place as possible to stay, work, and visit.

Your support of Weldmar Hospicecare is needed more than ever, as we continue to adapt to Covid-19.  Our fundraising events are cancelled for the foreseeable future.  Why not find out more about giving an affordable, regular donation, or playing our Lottery, or  supporting us by shopping with us?



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