Carers need caring for too … a focus on wellbeing

It’s the most wonderful time of the year … when we choose a theme for our annual advent calendar.

We’ve run a calendar every year since 2013 and in the past, after taking soundings from colleagues, we’ve created calendars with themes including #WhyILovetheNHS, our longest-serving staff members to link in with NHS70, celebrating award winners and delving into the secret lives of staff behind their uniforms.

This year, we did consider a focus on lovely fluffy and not-so-fluffy pets, after all, most people enjoy a cute dog, cat or even raccoon pic judging from Tiktok, but there was something else that called to us from all our interactions with colleagues over the past two years: the theme this year had to be wellbeing.

The pandemic has taken its toll on people working in many sectors and health and care has been particularly affected as staff (and volunteers) have risen to meet the often-changing needs of patients, adopt new guidance and procedures for example around infection control, changed where, how and who they work etc and borne the emotional burden both of dealing with COVID and of the backlog effect this has had on other types of care.

Many in our #1BigTeam have made personal sacrifices to care for patients or support those who do and the cumulative effective of all of this means staff can feel very tired.

The carers need caring for too. We have an intensive programme of support for wellbeing at UHP which includes an online Support Hub signposting to all the help available, wellbeing walls on wards, a number of interventions and a number of ‘Wellbeing for All’ charitably-funded posts including psychologist support.

We have just started training our first cohort of Health and Wellbeing Champions because we know that peer support makes a positive difference and we know that, more than ever, how staff feel and look after both themselves and each other, is critical.

So this year, when you click on the link to ‘open’ the door on the UHP online advent calendar, what you will find is a member of staff sharing their tips on how they keep their wellbeing bucket topped up. They will share helpful tips on keeping both mentally and physically well. They may also share how they used their Wellbeing Day this year – every member of staff was given an extra day’s annual leave as a small thank you in recognition of their extraordinary efforts.

Thank you to all those staff members who have come forward to share their tips. You can find our advent calendar via the link below and we will be sharing this every day via Daily Email and on social media too using the hashtags #UHPAdvent21 and #Healthwellbeing

Please do check back each day in December to find out who is behind each door and what their wellbeing tips are and please share these as widely as you can if you think they would be helpful to colleagues or friends.

It’s just a small way we can all support each other.

Amanda Nash

Head of Communications

“This is a moment to pause for everyone to reflect on the racial injustices that are, unfortunately, yet to be overcome”

Shadna Lallchand, one of our Emergency Nurse Practitioner’s, continues the Black History Month (BHM) blogs by penning her take on why BHM is important, but that the reflections during this period should extend into every day practice.

I am very supportive of Black History Month and its principles, however I believe this should be an ongoing process not just a celebration once a year.

To me, this month is dedicated to inspire and share the pride people have in their heritage and cultures; to learn about historic figures within the community whose achievements may have never made it into the history books.

It’s an opportunity to celebrate our diverse and interconnected cultures. This is a moment to pause for everyone to reflect on the racial injustices that are, unfortunately, yet to be overcome! Each and every person contributes towards our community despite race, colour or background. Fairness and equal treatment should be the key to sustain a happy and fair working condition in our society through education and exposures.

I feel proud that UHP have dedicated time and effort for fairness, inclusion and diversity and promoting a healthy workplace.

What Black History Month means to me – Kyeiyanne James

Throughout the month of October the Trust has been marking Black History Month by unveiling members of staff who have been nominated by colleagues for championing BAME causes. To end October, there will be a series of short blogs from our BAME colleagues to explain what Black History Month means to them. Kyeiyanne James is our BAME Network Chair and explains what the month means to her…

Kyeiyanne (left) with Rez Rogers

Black History Month (BHM) is usually an opportunity to proudly shine a light on the Black diaspora’s multifaceted histories and unsung historical figures. Black History Month to all of us should always encourage us to recognise our past, evaluate our present, and plan for our future.

As the BAME Chair at UHP, Deputy Chair Rez Rogers and I have reflected on 2020 to 2021. The pandemic has shown and allowed all of us to see and feel a pain like no other. It also gave us a joy and love upon returning to our loved ones. Our strength has always been our unity – it lightens the load we all share. And yet though, we cannot become what we do not see. What we have within the Trust are resilient, tenacious, and kind individuals who have gone above and beyond. 

In honour of this for BHM 2021 and for those who have suffered from the pandemic, we’ve asked staff from all areas in the Trust to nominate an ethnically diverse colleague who is a living hope of who we can all hope to become. This will galvanize and serve as a reminder of the tremendous work that we all do together and will continue to do each day, week, month, and years to come. 

Black History Month to me is about celebrating our differences and acknowledging our similarities. Of course, we cannot and should never forget our black pioneers who came before us,  who accomplished a lot just like our white counterparts. Black History Month has given us a global platform to visually showcase the immense progress we have made from pre- colonialism. It is where we can authentically be ourselves, educate people and build discussion on how we can progress together towards racial equality.

When we are talking about diversity, it’s not a box to check and tick. It is a reality that should be deeply felt, held, and valued by all of us.

Ethnically diverse staff and allies have worked so hard together this last year to build so many visible positive changes. From the Trust’s anti-racism statement, the Cultural Calendar, changes in recruitment policies, changes within the Medical School and of course the birth of the BAME Network. 

Because our Trust serves a very diverse community, in our commitment to understand and serve you, we began collaborations with the Plymouth and Devon Racial Equality Council (PDREC). Collaborating with PDREC has significantly helped us to understand what the gaps within the community are and how we can close those gaps.  None of these changes would have been made or sustained without you highlighting them.  

Thank you to all our allies from the Executives, Non-Executives, Equality Diversity and Inclusion team, the Communications Team, and all staff and colleagues, but most importantly the BAME Network members. We are all leaders because each one of us has the capacity to translate vision into reality.

The BAME Network is looking forward to matching the same energy of those that came before us and leaving an impact that is greater than ourselves.

Kyeiyanne James

BAME Network Chair

What Black History Month means to me – Ibreez Ajaz

Throughout the month of October the Trust has been marking Black History Month by unveiling members of staff who have been nominated by colleagues for championing BAME causes. To end October, there will be a series of short blogs from our BAME colleagues to explain what Black History Month means to them. The first comes from Ibreez Ajaz who combines her role as Internal Medicine Trainee, with being a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian at the Trust and is the South West British Medical Association BAME Co-Chair.

“I was very fortunate to grow up in a diverse community in the United States, where all backgrounds and ethnicities were celebrated and ‘being different’ wasn’t a concept.

While we would celebrate Black History Month in February, the sentiment is the same. It became a time for me to reflect on the achievements and attributes of lesser-known black scientists, inventors, and engineers. It brought life to words written by novelists covering matters related to race, liberty, and equality. I grew to know and understand more than what my formal education afforded me, to have the opportunity to actually see how society has progressed to allow a more understanding environment.

It encompasses the struggle, the adversities faced, and the anguish of a race of man who just wanted their one inalienable right – the acceptance that we are all created equal. At its very essence, it is a way to honour the work of many who have strived to allow for what freedom and acceptance we have today.”

Ibreez Ajaz

Internal Medicine Trainee (CT3)


Message for staff – The Garden of Life

This is my first blog as Chief Executive and many will know my preferred social media outlet is Twitter.  I have been prompted though to say a little more than the usual 140 characters as a result of a Twitter exchange.

My Twitter interactions with the Editor of the Health Service Journal, Alastair McLellan

What I had intended to convey – appreciation, support and personal engagement with our teams across Derriford (as I try to through Twitter) and how it had been read;  an impression that a hospital under so much Emergency Department pressure that any public messaging was a ‘sign of desperate times’. This exchange with the Editor of the Health Service Journal really got me thinking though about the importance of the whole story and what matters when you look in – and how different this can be when you are in it.

Undoubtedly Derriford is, like many other hospitals, under huge urgent and emergency care pressure. This has a big impact right across our hospital and on all of our teams.

Compared to the same period pre-pandemic, we are now seeing more ambulances handovers, and from 01 June to 06 July this year we have seen 10,976 patients through the front door – a record attendance for this time of year.

The CQC have issued a section 29a notice to improve safety and this sits alongside our absolute commitment to restore all planned operations, diagnostics, support the ongoing COVID demand and being in a part of the world which is the top of the staycation choice list. So yes, UHP is undoubtedly ‘under pressure’.

As Chief Executive though, I don’t see or experience desperation. I see fatigue, tiredness and a sense that days can feel like groundhog days, not enough beds and a frustration and at times real distress that we can’t offer better care within our capacity constrained hospitals.  I try to spend a lot of my time listening to colleagues to try and appreciate what it is like to work here from their perspective and lived experience, not just from my view of the Derriford world.  Experiences are personal and I am always keen to bridge that gap of what is intended and how it feels for colleagues, whatever their role.  This is really challenging when there is so much operational pressure. I recognise many colleagues have depleted emotional energy to always create the right ‘conversational space’ to get things done and support colleagues rather than just get things done. I hear this from colleagues I spend time with, through Freedom to Speak Up Guardians and from our Big Conversations. From my view of the hospital though, most of all, I see very dedicated NHS colleagues all pulling together.

I see teams who are working so hard not just to care for patients today but also to make changes across the hospital, as this video shows below. This is incredible given the pressures we are working under.

After the CQC inspection, our teams have been working so hard to make changes.

Our top three priorities are to address the pressures and impact of urgent and emergency care (ambulance handovers, timeliness of care within the department and the knock-on to planned operations and across the hospital with high levels of occupancy); the work with the wider system to get the model of care right and most of all to continue to develop the deep sense of team and appreciation across the whole organisation to get things done not just for today but for the longer term.

24/7, 365 days of the year , I experience my colleagues taking action to provide responsive and safe services for our patients, applying considerable experience and professionalism to be focused, and support a team of the most dedicated and exceptional colleagues – each and every one of them across the Trust – who want to make a difference.

Our People First approach is about improvement, marginal gains in the absence of a timely magic bullet. It is led by teams to address the issues where they know how to do better. Our monthly ‘People First Report out’ is an inspiring showcase of teams leading change, using improvement methodology to make a difference to patients, colleagues and our environment. Our five staff networks (BAME, Women’s, LGBTQ+, DAWN and Religion) are increasingly our true partners to mobilise change, to raise the uncomfortable lived experiences for those who are most marginalised across our teams and we have made a Board commitment to positive action to be the change we want to see.  Our clinically led Teams are involved daily in making the very best of the constrained capacity we have across our sites – working together to explore options, small tests of change and sharing the dilemmas and choices we inevitably end up making.  We’ve committed to our Big Conversations with colleagues about the things that matter to them: flexible working, health and wellbeing, what does it feel like to work in a great team and what would you value as a thank you for the pandemic efforts. Interestingly feedback was not about events or even badges but art work around the hospital that will be a lasting reminder of everything we went through and for our health and wellbeing support to be there as a constant with a range of services – less opt in and more as a part of a proactive way of supporting colleagues.

My June ‘#ChiefExecutiveShoutOut’ includes a very wet and soggy film footage of an overgrown garden space just at the front of the hospital and next to ‘Little Haven’ a garden of reflection and remembrance for those who have lost babies and children.

The current space which will become The Garden of Life
Becky, Jim and Chris

The new garden space has a working title the Garden of Life. Across the Trust, staff from nursing, patient council, communications and IMT have all joined together to transform this space, with the support of our tremendous city to be a sanctuary for those who have lost loved ones through the pandemic, staff who have cared throughout this time and anyone who needs to ‘just be’. Once the overgrowth has been cleared there will be a beautiful view of the front of the hospital.  I was so moved by the personal accounts of Becky, Jim, Chris and thank them as well as Sian and Megan who are leading this work, the filming has stayed with me. The Garden of Life, our ICU garden and  Little Haven all embody the team spirit of UHP, the spirit I am honoured to see every day: incredible commitment, working together to support the people we care about, #1BigTeam and to  be a place of positive action today and one of hope and looking to the future.

Thank you #1BigTeam, it is my honour to work with you, to know you and most of all I hope to support you.

“This will remain one of the greatest experiences of my career for the rest of my life”

Specialist Occupational Therapist, Judi Armstrong

Working at Derriford Vaccination Hub during the global pandemic has been an honour.

The team at Derriford hub have been amazing to work with. We have supported each other to enable skilled client focused treatment in a non-invasive environment. Everyone has been incredibly committed to the service provided.

Every day that I have worked at the Derriford Vaccination Hub, I have observed empathy, respect and sensitivity to those that have come to us for their vaccines. 

There have been many joyous times that I have been a part of and I shall miss my wonderful colleagues greatly as we leave Derriford to move on to a new venue.

It has been a privilege to serve my community and to be a part of a wonderful, cohesive, professional team.

Vaccinator, Janet Benjafield

I trained as a registered general nurse at Plymouth School of Nursing at Derriford in 1982. After starting a family I left nursing but when the pandemic changed our world I wanted to be involved in some way, to do something positive.

After extensive training in the various vaccines that had been so far approved, I once again began working at Derriford with the Mass Vaccination programme as a Vaccinator some 32 years after I had left.

The team here has been put together from across the wider NHS community, and from many that had retired; midwives, general, paediatric, student and psychiatric nurses, health visitors, health care assistants, clerical staff, occupational therapists, physiotherapists pharmacologists, hospital doctors, GP’s, paramedics, IT specialists plus huge numbers of the general public who volunteered, and many, many more, all coming together as one big team working together with a single goal: to get as many people double vaccinated in as short a time, in the safest, simplest way as possible. 

It has been an absolute privilege to work alongside all these amazing professionals and volunteers who hit the ground running to undertake this mammoth task. Personally it’s been wonderful to work alongside ex-colleagues and friends again, there’s been much laughter and reminiscing, working out who knows who from decades ago, catching up on news and realising that although we’re all older we fundamentally haven’t changed in wanting to help others.

The public have been absolutely fantastic; I don’t think I’ll ever be thanked as much ever again as I have in any of my shifts here. Everyone has been so grateful for what we have been doing showing basic human nature at its best with adverse circumstances bringing out the best in people. It’s been an absolute privilege. 

Dan Fowell, Nurse Associate Educator

It has been an honour to be able serve and protect the general population in the delivery of the vaccination programme.

Everyone who works at the vaccine centre, be it registered nurses, health care assistants, other health care professionals admin and volunteers have created a bond like no other. We are all there for the same cause and wanting to make a difference to people lives through providing this service.   

Not one of us could deliver such a valuable service without the support of one another.

I feel privileged to be in a position to offer my services to help protect the general public and colleagues that I have worked with. This will remain one of the greatest experiences of my career for the rest of my life.

Women’s Network Armed Forces Panel Discussion

The Women’s Network supported Armed Forces Day by hosting a panel discussion with some of our amazing Armed Forces Women:

  • Surg Cdr Jo Keogh OBE- Current CO of JHG (SW), Radiology Consultant in full time Leadership and Management role since 2013
  • Flight Lieutenant Emily Cheshire a RAF ITU nurse
  • Flight Sergeant Erica Flewin a RAF generalist nurse

Here are some snippets, where you can hear just some of the highlights from the discussion.

On Imposter Syndrome and the Acronym FAIL

On Being Comfortable to Challenge

On the Armed Forces and the LGBTQ+ Community

On Women’s Health Issues

UHP Biomedical Scientists tell their stories for Biomedical Science Day 2021

Biomedical Science is absolutely vital to healthcare. Here members of our #1BigTeam tell their stories of being a Biomedical Scientist at UHP:

BMS Band 5 Overnight Shift, by Harvey Ransom

Lab coats hung on hooks

The lab never sleeps.  A weekday night begins at 10pm and finishes at 8am. During this time there is one Biomedical Scientist (me) in charge of running Blood Transfusion, Haematology and Coagulation. 

This particular night when I came in most of the routine GP work had finished be analysed with ‘just’ a couple of blood films to look at for morphological interpretation.  One looked like iron deficiency so I added further tests to confirm this observation; the other patient had a low platelet count.  As these are useful to stop bleeding, a low platelet count needs to be reported to the ward- one phone call later and I was back to the routine work from ED and other wards.  I find it best to clear the blood films early in the night as looking down a microscope at 4am can make the cells dance before your eyes.

At midnight, the controls need to be run on the full blood count analysers, three out of four passed.  An automated clean and flush of the analyser and the control still failed so I had to get a new control sample from the fridge, leave it to reach room temperature then try running it for a third time. Success, it passed. Now all four analysers can be used for running patient samples.  This is a good thing because while I was sorting out the controls more samples were coming into reception from the air tube system and being hand delivered.

The bleep has been sounding with it’s normal regularity but this time it is ED activating the Massive Haemorrhage pack, not too much of a problem as we have four units of emergency blood ready to give out along with four units of plasma. This trauma pack will usually restore the balance of oxygen carrying red cells as well as replacing the volume of plasma lost in a large bleed.  The routine is to immediately allocate four more red cells and four more plasma packs for the next trauma. On this occasion a second pack was needed almost immediately, this can be a problem as the plasma is stored at -40C and requires defrosting.  Luckily I could ‘borrow’ some from a patient that had it ready but not used it yet- I will replace this with plasma I am defrosting.

Refrigerated blood

So back to full blood counts and coagulation samples, the centrifuge was beeping away as I had spent so much time dealing with the ED trauma patient. Sometimes we never know the name of the patient or if they have survived but each patient gets the products they need in a timely manner- even if it does delay the routine work.

More samples, more re-runs to confirm results, more authorising, do the patient details on the sample match those on the computer system? Is the sample signed? Is it the first or second sample? Where is my pen? Where are my glasses? I’ll give them a clean in a minute. Have I put the correct comment on the result? Are they suitable for electronic issue of red cells if needed?

Then a RhD negative Mum gives birth. The RhD status of the baby can have fatal consequences for any subsequent pregnancies if anti-D is not given within 72 hours of delivery.  This means running the baby sample to find out their blood group, making a blood film on Mum’s sample, making positive and negative control slides to ensure the staining has worked properly.  Once I have the results of Baby, they are RhD positive so Mum will need anti-D to protect any future babies she may have.  So now in the early hours I am looking at stained red cells to see how many if any foetal red cells have found their way into the maternal blood system during the trauma of birth.  On this occasion none were seen and Mum will be fine with the routine does of anti-D via injection.  Once this is issued another bleep sounds for me to reply to.

The sky is brightening as the sun starts to slowly rise and a slightly bleary sounding Haematology registrar is calling from their mobile phone regarding a patient with extremely low platelets (not the same patient as earlier though).  Can I look at a film to confirm the reading is genuine? As I said previously platelets love to stick together and stop you bleeding but when this happens in a blood sample tube the analyser can only count what is there and gives a falsely low result.  In this case the count was genuine- the patient had a high grade infection and was either verging on sepsis or undergoing DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation) – where the blood starts to clot throughout your body not just from the site of a wound.  Incidentally this can eventually lead to the patient bruising and bleeding due to using up the clotting proteins from the DIC.

We have a protocol to determine if there is active DIC which involves looking for damage to the red cells in a blood film, send off urgent sample to Bristol for specialist testing and performing a non-routine screening test in-house.  Around seven phone calls later and the ward know which samples I need to perform the in-house assay, and send the correct samples to Bristol.  While waiting for the samples to arrive I take out the relevant reagent kits to perform our assay, find the instructions for how to send the samples to Bristol and who to warn they are on their way.

Still have the routine maintenance to do on the coagulation analysers, make up and run the controls before the morning Biomedical Scientist (BMS) arrives at 8am.  The samples arrive, I centrifuge the one I need to, perform the maintenance, run routine samples in the three sections and before I know it my saviour arrives in the shape of the bright and breezy early morning BMS.  We have a slightly longer than normal hand over, where I apologise for leaving more work than normal as well as the samples to send away even though I know I could not have done anymore and my colleague tells me to get home to bed.

So there it is, an example of a ‘normal’ night shift.  There is no such thing, some are busier than others, sometime the analysers really play up, sometimes it seems that every sample is abnormal and needs extra attention to make sure you are reporting the correct result.  No mention of breaks in all the above because there is no set time when I can close the lab and usually end up with a few cold cups of tea and snacking on whatever I brought with me that night- it’s never quite what I fancy though.

With thanks to Harvey Ransom

A Typical Day in the life of a Haematology Biomedical Scientist by Carol Ricketts

Thursday 24 June 2021 is National Biomedical Science Day. Take a moment to celebrate this little known group of laboratory professionals who come under the umbrella of Allied Health professionals (along with Radiographers for example).

Have you ever stopped to think how a blood sample gets from the patient to producing a set of results on which a patient is treated or diagnosed? Of course there are several steps involving different key roles in this process, but the Biomedical Scientists (BMS) are pivotal in analysing the sample to produce quality, accurate results in a timely fashion, often with staff shortages and equipment issues. Which also brings me to an essential part of our job role, not only do we analyse results but these days you are expected to be an ‘expert’ in quality management, IT and troubleshoot analysers, in addition to mentoring and training trainees.

BMS’s work in diverse specialities such as Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Immunology, Haematology, Blood Bank and Microbiology, with various types of sample: blood, serum, urine, faeces, swabs etc. We are highly regulated by our profession, employment requiring state registration with the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC). We also have our own professional body, the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) which is well recognised by employers both in the public and private sectors.

So, you have gone to your GP, complaining of tired and shortness of breath. The nurse has taken a Full Blood Count and the surgery courier has brought your sample in to the Combined Labs reception. The sample is booked in, checking the sample is labelled correctly with any paperwork. The reception is the central hub where all samples are receipted from in patients, outpatients and GP surgeries. It is a very busy area and samples are numbered and separated according to the required test(s). For example, on 21 June 2021 the labs processed a total of 6482 samples, of which 1999 were full blood counts. The labs are open 365 days a year, 24/7 as people don’t just get sick 9-5pm!

A full blood count is the basic test in haematology (but we also look at blood films, perform Plasma viscosities, Infectious mononucleosis (IM), malaria screening and Special Investigations including haemoglobinopathies. Coagulation forms part of haematology where we can test for clotting abnormalities, perform heparin and warfarin monitoring and screen for haemophilia and Von Willebrand’s disease to mention but a few of the tests available.

All blood counts go on to one of four analysers which give information on white cell count, haemoglobin, platelets and white cell differential. Incidentally, we were the pilot site, the first in the UK to have installed these analysers and it has been an interesting journey which is still  work in progress. The results of your blood count have been validated by a BMS and shows you have low haemoglobin and you could be iron deficient. A blood film is made of your blood and it is stained. A BMS will look at the film to see if numbers of cells are normal and what morphological changes there are. Based on the film assessment, the BMS may decide to request further tests, in this case, to check the ferritin level. Once the FBC and any other tests are completed, a report goes out to the GP surgery. The GP can see you are anaemic and have a low ferritin and may recommend a course of iron.

Even though the lab is performing the same basic tests, no two days are the same and you never know what patients are going to present with. Sadly we do pick up new leukaemias and other malignancies and our work plays an important role in monitoring these patients during chemotherapy and treatment. There is never time to be bored, we are expected to write/revise SOPS, write non-conformances and keep up to date with many competencies (renewed annually). Good communication skills are an asset as we are required to deal with medics, GP’s, nurses, engineers and company reps.

I have been a BMS for 20 years and it has never been busier or more demanding, especially the last 12 months with COVID 19.  Despite this, despite staff shortages and equipment issues that require manual intervention, the haematology team really pull together as a team, one of which I am proud to be a part of.  I always knew I wanted to be involved in science in some way. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction and achievement to play a small but vital role in patient care. How many people can say their job can make a difference to the life of others?

With thanks to Carol Ricketts

How I became a Biomedical Scientist working in Immunology, By Tara Knill

I have worked in the Immunology Department for 19 years. I came here as a trainee but as my degree was not IBMS accredited the Hospital sent me to Bristol to do a top-up degree. A few years later they then paid for me to complete my Master’s degree.

I was always interested in science especially working in the Hospital but was not aware of the role of a Biomedical Scientist. It sounded very proper, and I was not sure if I was clever enough. I am an average student at best, and I did a BTEC in Science NOT A levels. The on-the-job training is so thorough it does not need an A grade student and it is a job for life.

Working for the NHS is rewarding but I also get to work with all staff in the hospital. This is extremely exciting and interesting. Its never a dull day! And I am immensely proud of where I work and what we do. Our hard work means patients get there results in a timely fashion and to a high quality.

A huge part of the role is ensuring machines are working and the biggest challenges we face is when they break down. This is also a rewarding part of the job as we must work out what went wrong and how to not affect delivery of patient results. Its an amazing feeling when you troubleshoot and get it back to working order.

The NHS is so much more than Doctors and Nurses and whilst I respect the amazing work they do; they need the support staff working so hard behind the scenes. Together we work to deliver the best care for patients in our region.

Whilst most of our work is diagnostic, we are also involved in developing new methods. There is so much behind the scenes work on bringing in new tests. These tests will improve diagnosis and speed up delivery of results. We work with the service improvement team to ensure we keep up-to-date with methods used in industry to make sure we are working as efficient as we can and reduce waste. We constantly review and strive to improve the delivery of results whilst sometimes with staffing and financial pressures, but this is the part of the job I really enjoy.

I would recommend this job to anyone with an interest in science. Immunology is an ever-changing discipline and new technologies, and methods keeps it interesting and challenging. Lab work is hard but extremely rewarding.

With thanks to Tara Knill

We’re also sharing photos of the teams in the Combined Labs over on our Instragram channel. Follow us and see the photos here. This is a day to unite with other biomedical science professionals by using the hashtags: #AtTheHeartOfHealthcare or #BiomedicalScienceDay2021

Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia: when your family becomes the one in 3000

There are three things I didn’t expect to hear during my pregnancy. The first one was at the 12-week scan: “You are expecting twins!” The second and third ones were at the 20-week scan: “You are expecting identical twin girls! But twin two is suffering from a condition called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH)”.

Never heard of CDH? Neither did we until the 10th April 2017.

It is a hole in the diaphragm that allows the organs such as the liver, stomach and intestines to move up into the chest cavity and prevent the lungs from developing.  CDH affects one in 3000 babies in the world, one in 2500 babies in the UK, and our case was one of two recorded cases in the South West and the only one recorded (we were told) to affect an identical twin. The causes are still unknown and the chance of survival at birth is 50%.

The words, just like our hearts, were heavy and they resonated in our heads for months. Every day, every project, the laughs, the smiles, the hopes became tinted with fear.

Infographic explaining CDH. For a text-only detailed explanation of CDH visit
For a text-only detailed explanation of CDH visit the CDH UK website.

I gave birth on the 7th August to perfectly gorgeous girls, Lola and Chloé, but the fear became reality on the morning of the 8th August 2017. After fighting for 18 hours, Chloé’s heart, after filling ours with love and joy, grew tired and stopped.

Almost four years on, Lola is happy and healthy making sure she fills our lives with smiles, tantrums and love for the both of them. We, as a family, are adapting to our new normal, aiming to raise as much awareness of CDH as we can.

Maybe one day we will get the answers as to why and how, but for now, if our contribution can help one of those families out of 3000 touched by the same words that we were, then a massive mission has been accomplished.

If you want to learn more about CDH please visit the CDH UK website, and if my family’s story resonates and you would like to talk then CDH UK offer lots of different support.

May17: International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia was initially established in 2004 in order to raise awareness of hate crimes against individuals for their gender or sexual identity. Choosing to hold this day on the 17th of May was an informed choice, to commemorate the declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness in 1990. Though hate crimes of this nature are illegal, they still occur every day – in fact, many LGBTQ+ individuals have experienced some form of hate crime in their lives.

For more information on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, follow Stonewall on social media

1 in 5 LGBT+ people, and 2 in 5 transgender people, will have experienced a hate crime due to their sexual or gender identity in the last 12 months. A simple visible symbol (such as the Rainbow Badge) can make a big difference for those unsure of both themselves and of the reception they may receive when disclosing their sexuality and/or gender identity.

Homophobic and transphobic language/behaviour will not be tolerated at UHP NHS Trust. We are an incredibly diverse team, and IDAHTB should serve as a reminder to be kind to one another. We must ensure that we are doing all that we can to provide a safe space for ALL of our colleagues.

If you’d like to take part in creating a nurturing community within our Trust, please consider pledging to the Rainbow Badge Initiative.  With over 1300 pledges so far, we’re seeing a really positive response to our Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion aims. Please click here for more information and to make your pledge:

In order to ensure that our gender diverse colleagues feel able to actively participate in staff networks, we aim to establish a small working group with the Women’s Network. This group would focus on the intersection between the LGBT+ community and gender equality by promoting collaboration between the networks. If this is something you would like to get involved in, or if you would like to reach out for support, please feel free to contact our network inbox.

We would also like to thank everyone who took the time to complete the survey released by the LGBT+ Staff Network. The overwhelming majority of respondents offered positive feedback, and have helped to inform the network aims going forward.

The LGBT+ Staff Network aims to ensure that, regardless of employee’s sexual orientation and gender identity, opportunities are equal and that staff can feel comfortable raising issues and tackling discrimination. In providing open forums for our LGBT+ colleagues to share their experience of the workplace in a supportive and safe environment, we strive to create a more inclusive environment for our staff by empowering them to feel safe and confident in bringing their whole selves to work.

Our network is open to allies interested in inclusion and those colleagues who identity within the LGBT+ acronym (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, The Plus represents other sexual and gender identities) with the aim to continue working together to make UHP as inclusive as possible, and we hope that all UHP colleagues look forward to seeing what we can achieve as a team!

Many thanks,

UHP LGBT+ Network

Ann James, Chief Executive

Network inbox:

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