NHS Chief Executive praises NHS snow heroes

NHS staff walk miles in snow, dig vehicles out of drifts and sleep in hospitals.

Simon Stevens today praised heroic NHS staff for defying arctic conditions that have brought Britain to a standstill to ensure patient care has continued uninterrupted.

NHS England’s Chief Executive, said: “In these adverse circumstances NHS staff have taken extraordinary measures to get into work and look after patients.

“Once again the NHS is showing that we are there for people when they need us and that’s all down to our staff, so a huge thank you to everybody across the NHS who is going the extra mile for people at this highly pressurised time.

The NHS boss singled out a London paramedic and staff at Sunderland for a special mention, saying: “We’ve seen examples across the country, including Kat, a paramedic from London Ambulance service, who cycled to her blue light emergencies when the vehicles couldn’t get through. And staff in Sunderland who stayed overnight in the hospital last night, as has happened in many places around the country in order to be there for patients.”

Speaking to the Nuffield Trust today, Mr Stevens added: “I also want to thank the Army – in certain parts of the country where they have helped to get our staff into work, we have seen that in the South West and parts of Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Lincolnshire.

As Mr Stevens spoke, heroic NHS staff have gone the extra mile – or miles – to ensure services to continue and GP practices and hospitals are staffed despite the freezing conditions, snow and ice covering Britain from Storm Emma and the Beast from the East.

Doctors, nurses and paramedics have all battled with the treacherous elements and temperatures as low as -10C to ensure patients continue to get the care they need.

In the West Country, Devon GP Dr Glen Allaway spent the last two nights sleeping at Lynton health centre to ensure he was at the surgery to see patients. Meanwhile, his community nurse has been walking or quad biking to care for her patients at home.

In Chesterfield, NHS staff had a local schoolteacher  to thank for making sure they got to work, being picked up in her 4×4 Land Rover Defender to ferry them through the snow to the town’s Royal Hospital.

In North Norfolk where rural villages have been totally cut off, two farmers from Stokesby and Coltishall helped the Acle Medical Centre deliver medication in their tractors, while a GP got into work by borrowing his neighbour’s 4×4. Another doctor battled for four hours to get to work, twice having his car dug out of snow drifts.

Maria Flood, Practice Manager at Harlseton Medical Practice in Norfolk, said: “Today we overcame the adverse weather conditions in order to keep the GP practice open. I woke up to 4ft snow drifts outside my home so I asked a local farmer for help and ended up travelling to work on a tractor!

“All of our GPs set off at 6am to make the 30 minute journey into work but all ended up stranded. They had mobile Wi-Fi and laptops in their cars so were able to make calls and triage patients as usual whilst awaiting rescue. “

At Nottingham Children’s Hospital, the play staff turned the icy conditions to their advantage, bringing trays of snow into the hospital so their young patients could enjoy making a snowman as they couldn’t go outside.

Hospital spokesperson Emily Bishton said: “It was a brilliant example of innovative play and well as an opportunity to maintain normality while in hospital.”

In Lincoln, Amy Semper, a mental health ward manager trudged a 16-mile round trip through the snow  to support her patients and staff. She said: “16 miles, a whole load of snow and 27 hours surrounded by some of the most kindest, selfless, hardworking and dedicated people you could ever meet.”

Further north, which has been gripped by deadly blizzard conditions, dedicated staff from City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust have been sleeping in hospitals overnight to ensure medical centres continue to run smoothly.

One nurse walked 10 miles in the snow to treat NHS patients and the Trust’s Deputy Chief Executive, Carol Harries, said: “A massive thank you to staff who, despite the freezing conditions, have gone above and beyond to ensure that there is minimal disruption to patient care and that we are able to continue to treat those who need it the most.”

Three nurses at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, Kristene Pain, Jennie Richards and Sallie Woodrow from the Safari children’s ward, stayed in empty patients’ rooms overnight.

Ward sister Bethan Williams said: “It took one of our nurses three hours to get into work on Wednesday, so she brought her overnight bag with her as she knew it would make more sense to stay at the hospital overnight than struggle home and risk being late in the morning.”

London’s paramedics were praised for their “amazing” efforts as they fearlessly performed their duties to save the sick and dying during Storm Emma’s icy grip.

Medical staff and emergency workers walked miles through the snow to get to work, while others slept overnight in hospitals to make sure they were there for their next shift.

Awe-inspired patients hailed paramedics in London who cycled, walked and even sledged to help patients-in-need.

A clip shared on social media showed a snow-laden member of the LAS cycle team pedalling through the white streets of the capital.

Undeterred by the biting cold and blizzard-like conditions, the paramedic named Kat gave the camera a thumbs up as she powered on through the snowy roads.

Another picture showed a paramedic setting off on foot through several inches of snow, dragging a sledge behind him, as he went to cover the night shift.

Earlier this week Sir Bruce Keogh, chairman of the NHS National Emergency Pressures Panel, said: “The panel wants to thank all NHS colleagues for their continued hard work and dedication in the face of a ‘perfect storm’ of appalling weather, flu and norovirus.

“With the severe conditions expected to continue we ask patients, their families to bear with us as we seek to minimise any disruption.”

Today NHS England repeated its advice to the public to keep warm during the ongoing cold snap and to stock up with medicines.

Professor Willett, NHS England Medical Director for Acute Care, said: “People with respiratory illnesses are particularly vulnerable during cold weather. For every one degree that the temperature drops below 5 degrees, there is a 10% rise in elderly people presenting with breathing problems and almost a 1% increase in emergency admissions. Therefore if the temperature drops 5 degrees there will be a 4-5% increase in people being admitted to hospital.

“We are asking that elderly people ensure their homes are well heated and see their pharmacists if they feel unwell. Pharmacists are fully qualified to give advice on the best course of action. It is also important that we all take care of each other during the cold weather snap.”