Harrogate hospital chief's emotional and eye-opening insight into the extraordinary resilience and compassion shown by all NHS staff in our district

The remarkable care, compassion and unbelievable resilience shown by healthcare teams and every single member of NHS staff in our district during the coronavirus outbreak has exceeded any level of excellence that can reasonably be measured by any reports or governing bodies, the chief executive of Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust has said this week.

Speaking to the Harrogate Advertiser, Steve Russell said every member of staff - both at the hospital and out in the community - has played an absolutely critical role in the Trust being able to deliver what equates to two years’ worth of work being done in just two weeks.

Giving an eye-opening insight into the sheer adaptability and can-do attitude of his teams, Mr Russell said staff have been upskilling and training in new areas to help manage the unprecedented pressures on our NHS. Examples he cited include theatre staff upskilling to critical care to help manage the outbreak, and those working in admin training up to become ward volunteers.

He said: “In some cases we are asking people to do work that is new to them, things they haven’t done for some time, and asking people to dust up their skills they learnt many years ago that they haven’t had to use in their particular area at the moment.

The chief executive of Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust Steve Russell.

“They are working incredibly long hours, they are worried about their own families whilst they are at work, and they are going through a period where pretty much everything we know about the NHS and everything they know about their work is changing, and it’s changing really quickly. Things we’ve never done before we’re suddenly doing, and really quickly.”

Mr Russell said despite staff feeling scared themselves because of the seriousness of the virus nationwide, and the effect it could potentially have on their own loved ones, they still come into work with a smile on their faces, and an astonishing ability to lift patients’ spirits.

Their ability to carry on and go above and beyond to serve their communities is moving beyond words. Mr Russell said: “I’m a pretty robust individual, and what I see every single day makes me incredibly proud to be part of the team, and part of the over 4,000 colleagues pulling out every stop every single day.

“And to be honest what I see them doing brings a tear to my eye every day. It touches you in a way that is almost impossible to describe.”

Mr Russell said everyone deserves recognition and gratitude for all they have done in the face of such worrying and uncertain times for the country as a whole.

He said: “There is absolutely no way we could do this without every single member of the team, there is lots of focus on the hospital rightfully, and our doctors and nurses do an incredible job, but all of my colleagues across all teams have stepped up in a way that’s just unprecedented - whether that’s in catering, domestic, admin, therapy, and every other area, it is one enormous frontline fighting against coronavirus together. No role is less important than another, every job is absolutely critical.

“It’s important to remember the district nurses and their teams, who are looking after vulnerable people in their own homes, our health visitors and school nurses, who are also doing all they can.

“It’s the invisible army of people making sure that those at home who are not able to get out have a friendly face and the right care and attention keeping their spirits up. I’ve worked in the NHS 20-odd years, and what I’ve seen in my lifetime doesn’t describe what we are seeing now from all teams.”

The kindness and support shown by the Harrogate community has been overwhelming and truly emotional for all teams to witness.

Mr Russell said: “The support from local people, businesses large and small, individuals, groups, and all these outpourings of kindness and support towards people in the trust has been incredible, it makes you very emotional and we are so grateful.

“It’s the thing that in some ways touches hearts the most, those little acts of kindness, as it’s just a symbolic thing that says, we’re in this together, we support you, we’ll do our bit, and we care about you. It helps us get through times of enormous difficulty.

“We’re in an incredibly accelerated period of getting ready. It’s quite eerie at the moment as we prepare, but we are doing everything we possibly can.

“The way our teams can be best protected in order to do what they need to do, is for people in Harrogate to follow the national guidance that is there for a reason.

“We really can’t thank people enough for all of their amazing support, kindness and generosity, it really gives us all such a lift and we are so grateful.”