Blog: How Do We Cement Our Covid Response Into A Positive Lasting Legacy?
With Lockdown restrictions starting to ease, Jane Ferguson, Director of Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation, reflects on the role that the charity has played in supporting their NHS Lothian colleagues since the Coronavirus outbreak and considers what role it will continue to play over the next few months.
The past few months have been like nothing I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. Even although it hasn’t been that long in relative terms, it’s difficult to think of what life was like before Coronavirus.
From the start of the year, we watched the wave come towards us as the virus travelled across the globe and made its way to our shores, our communities, our hospitals.
As the NHS put an emergency response in place, so did we. One thing was clear, those who would be caring for the influx of Covid-19 patients and the challenges that would bring, would themselves need to be cared for. As the official charity partner of NHS Lothian, we had a vital role to play in ensuring we provided packages of support that would help look after the mental and physical wellbeing of staff as they worked through the biggest global health crisis of our lifetime.
We launched our NHS Lothian Covid-19 Appeal on 20 March 2020 and were immediately flooded with donations, and offers of support. Colleagues from across the Foundation also came together to form a Rapid Response team to help manage and co-ordinate the requests for support from staff, and match up the generous donations of gifts in kind from businesses and the local community to those areas that would benefit most from them. The sense of community and the outpouring of kindness was amazing to witness.
At the start of lockdown, the majority of the requests and donations were for staff in the hospitals that had Covid positive wards, those who were providing vital care to the people who were the most severely affected by the virus. This was a critical time for support. More critical than I think we even realised at the time. Professionally, they were dealing with a new, highly contagious virus and new ways of working, and personally, there was also a major upheaval to the life we were all used to.
As the weeks progressed, we began to understand more about the pressures that our community health teams were facing, and would continue to face, as the peak of the virus slowed in the hospitals but remained among the population. Our community health teams continued to provide vital, and often complex care to patients at home yet had limited access to the same facilities as some of their hospital-based colleagues. Once again, a team of colleagues, partners and businesses came together to provide what assistance they could to ensure our colleagues in the community were given the support they needed to care for their own wellbeing while they looked after the needs of others.
The volume, scale and diversity of requests and donations of gifts in kind were like nothing I had ever seen before in all my time with the charity. New partnerships were formed both within and out with NHS Lothian. Partnerships that were forged in adversity but I hope will last a lifetime. I will be forever grateful to everyone who offered their support in whatever way they could. These last few months have reminded me of the kindness that still exists and the depth of community spirit that I had perhaps never fully appreciated.
As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, it feels like the situation is shifting. While everyone is trying to find a new rhythm and adapt to a new way of being, it feels like we are starting to move out of the urgent, rapid response phase and into one where we are looking ahead and considering what future needs might be.
An immediate, flexible response was what was required at the very start and whilst it would be wrong to suggest that the challenges that were felt at the start no longer exist, we need to start putting in place longer term, more sustainable support that will address the ongoing psychological toll on all staff as we move into the recovery stage, and also consider what the post-pandemic phase will look like.
So this is really just the beginning. The impact of this virus will be felt for a long time to come, probably more so in the community as restrictions remain in place to curtail the virus peaking again and putting strain on our hospitals, and we will need to have robust wellbeing support plans in place to address these lasting effects. As the crisis continues, staff will face new and difficult challenges and we need to continue to do everything that we can to support our amazing people through this global health emergency.
So what will be the legacy of our Covid response? How do we cement those things that staff have held dear over these last few months and implement long-term provision for their future wellbeing? This is what we now need to define and we are already working with our colleagues in NHS Lothian to determine what this might look like and how we would put it into practice.
Who knows what the future will bring? It is clear that we are not out of the woods yet but we are moving forward, and the Edinburgh & Lothians Health Foundation will always be there, providing support and looking after our colleagues – because that’s what we do.
To find out more about the projects that have been funded by Edinburgh & Lothians Health Foundation as part of the rapid response, visit bit.ly/Covid19Funded
This is the first in a series of blogs that looks at the important role that the charity plays in supporting the emotional and physical wellbeing of staff and patients, transforming the hospital environment to make it more comfortable and welcoming, and supporting education, innovation and research to help improve the lives of people across Edinburgh and the Lothians.