Warrington Hospital chairman Steve McGuirk looks at how staff and bosses are coping during the pandemic

THERE are numerous ways that lockdown is now starting to be eased, though it simply won’t and can’t be a light switch moment.

Nevertheless, slowly but surely things are coming back. So I thought it helpful to share a few reflections on behalf of the hospital trust at this important time.

It’s impossible to find words to do justice to how tough it has been over the last few weeks for us at the hospitals - unprecedented simply doesn’t cover it really - and though it continues to be tough, the figures engender a great sense of optimism.  

I appreciate there is a healthy scepticism about the precision and total reliability of ‘data’ - and in some respects it is naive to expect precision given the speed with which the virus has spread, and the speed at which we have had to change and adjust.

Notwithstanding, things are very much moving in the right direction – and society (not to mention the economy) does need to start emerging from hibernation.

Despite the positive direction of travel, and the other realities, however, the apparent change in the spread of the virus also represents one of the biggest risks we face. 

Before getting involved in the NHS, I spent many years as a firefighter, and some comparison with my previous life has come to mind in the last few weeks.

A major fire was at its most dangerous just past the point where it looked like crews were on top of the situation.

People relaxed a little, and the crews’ focus and ability to read the situation became hazier, as a bit of fatigue and familiarity set in. Yet there was still a dynamic and difficult situation unfolding – maybe not as spectacular or as clearly visible as it had been a few hours earlier – but nevertheless still changing and dangerous. 

It was about this time, therefore, when it was important to bring on fresh personnel and different crews and ensure that the emergency was looked at with new eyes, and the right things were ‘seen’ instead of being assumed.  

It was also vital to recognise that self-discipline and attention to detail can drift a little for the same reasons of familiarity and fatigue.  I will stop the analogy here, but I do think it stacks up for the way we have had handle the crisis of the Virus at the Hospital, and I also think we now face similar risks. 

Unfortunately, this is not just one big event, nor do we have the luxury of being able to bring fresh ‘relief teams’ to bear. Not only do we have to keep going with the people we have got and keep going for a long time – but we also have to figure out how to return to providing care much wider than Covid-19.

The good news is that we have an amazing team of people at all levels of the hospital and we have built on already good relationships with key partner organisations like the council, and other health providers. Crucially and most importantly, we have a standing in, and support from, a community that was unimaginable not that long ago. This is vital to instil the confidence that when we say it is safe to come to the hospital for treatment (again, not Covid), people trust us.

I have said before we cannot say thank you often enough – so thank you again to the whole community for their continuing support; it is outstanding. 

But as people work their way through the many complications of coming out of lockdown – which I appreciate is going to be scary and difficult for many people - could I urge them just to try to take a small step back on occasions? In doing so, reflect that the virus has not altogether gone, and so it remains vital that everyone follows the rules if we are to keep it in check.

As important as that, though, we need to be able to re-divert resources and return as much as possible to the other important work we need to do; but still retaining the right level of care for the background level of virus that is going to continue. It’s a difficult balancing act and one that is only possible with the continued support of the community.