The ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ kept Sunderland’s heroic hospital staff going to ensure those most in need continued to get the care they need during extreme weather conditions.
Bosses at Sunderland Royal hired 4x4s to get those staff living longer distances away both in and back from their shifts, while one NHS worker even caught a lift in on a council gritter.
More than 60 people from across departments have slept over for the last two nights, with more due to do so this evening.
A day ward was turned into accommodation, then returned to its usual use by morning, while mock wards in the Kayall Road’s education centre were also used as bedrooms.
Other workers have been put up by colleagues who live locally, while many have battled their way through treacherous conditions on the roads and by foot as they did their best to make it in for work.
Now, as the weekend approaches, City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is preparing for an influx of people seeking treatment after being stuck in their homes, with people being urged to turn to their GP, pharmacists and 111 service if they can.
Dr Mark Carpenter, consultant at its intensive care unit, who stayed on Wednesday night and will stay again tonight, as his team look after the hospital’s sickest patients, including those who are suffering organ failure, need support to breathe or have heart difficulties.
He said: “There has been a Dunkirk Spirit, putting people up at night.
“We’ve had three nurses come in from South Shields in a 4x4, some have been sleeping locally, with other members of staff putting them up, and those with cars which could deal with the weather have come in, with some swapping their shifts to make sure we had a full compliment of nursing staff.
“Doctors have been setting off early, using the Metro rather than bringing in their cars and some have stopped, rather than leave and not be able to make it back.”
It’s been a team effort at City Hospital Sunderland and South Tyneside to make sure patients have been cared for 24/7.Ken Bremner
Paul Northorpe, senior physiotherapist, stayed overnight alongside colleagues David Corbally, Chris Smith and Helen Ritchie.
He said: “It’s been a bit surreal really, but it’s been good and we’ve quite enjoyed it.
“It’s been nice to know we’re appreciated.”
Staff have brought in boxes of fruit and other items for their colleagues, while Tesco delivered a package of items of food, games and even books to read to thank the staff for their efforts.
Workers across the hospital, including porters, domestics, transport teams, receptionists, admin staff and catering teams, who have been ensuring all those on shift have been kept fed, have been praised by trust bosses.
Ken Bremner, chief executive of City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trusts, said: “We have been in winter for some time and our staff have already demonstrated their commitment to our patients, but over the last week or so we have seen some inclement weather.
“It’s been a team effort at City Hospital Sunderland and South Tyneside to make sure patients have been cared for 24/7.
“I’m always proud to be chief executive of these hospitals, but I know how the staff have really have pulled out the stops.
“A lot of patients have not come into hospital for the last few days, but we know they will decide they want to come to hospital, so we know we will see that influx of patients.
“But it’s been a difficult time for our staff, they have been doing long hours over the last few days, but we are prepared for that eventuality.
“But the message remains, only come to hospital if you absolutely must.
“If your condition can be helped by a pharmacist or through your GP or in the community, that would help the pressure on the hospital.”