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

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:

For more information, please visit: or

International Nurses Day 2021

This year we would love to celebrate your stories and share in your small celebrations on the wards and departments, as well as reflect on the past year.

Taking place today

Head over to Twitter and our #1BigTeam Facebook group to share your photos (social distanced) of celebration with your wards and departments.

Here are just a few of your stories:

Holly Chambers PMRAFNS

“For me, #IND2021 is about remembering our professions history and what adversities such as conflict and a pandemic have to teach us. This year’s focus is on innovation and the shape of healthcare in the future and what is innovation without curiosity? Curiosity is the key to learning, it’s about asking what we can learn from experiences, both good and bad. In the end, as a critical care clinical educator, that is all I ask of my learners, to stay curious.

“I was so proud to be selected to represent the PMRAFNS at the 2020 Festival of Remembrance which was dedicated to the WHO Year of the Nurse. To stand with my nursing colleagues from the Army, Royal Navy and the NHS, not only remembering those we have lost in conflict but also those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the COVID-19 pandemic, was an honour and privilege. I have been a registered nurse for 16 years, 11 years of which in critical care, and I have never felt so proud of my profession and the care that we provide in the face of such adversity.”

Andy Everett, Alcohol Liaison Nurse:

“I strongly believe in the power of compassion and kindness.”

What do you do?
What I see again and again is the damage alcohol can cause. My role is multi-facetted, however fundamentally I really do believe in the possibility of change, I am aware that this is not easy but never the less it is always possible.

What made you go into nursing?
I had friends who were studying nursing and I got inspired, I loved their motivation to do something that involved giving rather than taking. I also wanted to do something that made me feel good about myself, I really did get the bug to help and care for others.

What’s been a highlight of your career?
As an agency nurse I was back in my home town of Plymouth in 2009 and asked if I would like to do a shift at Broadreach, a residential rehabilitation centre.  I loved it. I was inspired, witnessing real change. I trained as a nurse/counsellor and developed a better understanding of the helper’s role. The subject of addiction and the role of helper continue to fascinate and I have with a strong desire to improve in my abilities. More than 10 years later and I am still as enthusiastic about the subject of behavioural change. I joined UHP as Alcohol Liaison Nurse in June 2020.

What drives you?
I have always been interested in communication and have seen in many ways the importance and power nurses have when caring for people, I strongly believe in the power of compassion and kindness.

Muhammad Asadullah, Band 5 Moorgate Ward

What made you go into nursing?
To care for the community and help the sick. 

What’s the best memory in your career?
Whilst working in Dubai as a junior nurse, I received a phone call to see the Matron, they promoted me to Nurse in Charge. When I left I received a certificate of appreciation from the Director of the hospital. I felt so proud. 

What do you love about working in Derriford?
Teamwork, professionalism and approachable ward manager, Drs and clinical educator. 

What makes nurses so special?
Sometimes the patients can be confused or aggressive and challenging. Nurses still maintain high standards and ensure they deliver good care. 

What’s the main thing you’ve learned this past year?
Being  an ICU nurse, I had never looked after a group of patients with complex needs. I have improved my workload management and communication with relatives and patients.

Alex Evers, Apprentice Nurse Moorgate Ward

What made you go into nursing? To further my career and help people. 

What’s the best memory in your career? The rewards of seeing people recover

What do you love about working in Derriford? The teamwork, everyone works together. 

What makes nurses so special? Empathy. 

What’s the main thing you’ve learned this past year? Wash your hands!

Sian Dennison, Macmillan Lead Cancer Nurse at Derriford, on both nursing and being a cancer patient herself this past year.

“It has been an incredibly tough year for nurses and all frontline colleagues. The pandemic brought many challenges, one of the toughest being having to move face to face consultations to phone or video calls with patients in their own homes. Whilst a positive move for many with more routine follow ups, it has been hard when talking to newly diagnosed patients. Harder for patients of course but also for nurses because it’s not as easy to build that special patient/nurse relationship in the same way as we can in person.

“When our patients could come to their appointments in person, they were not able to bring their loved ones with them, increasing their stress and anxiety levels. As Macmillan nurses we had to fill that role as much as possible, to ensure patients and their families still felt supported.”

“There have been some positives, the comradery and team spirit has been wonderful, pulling together, not only within cancer care services, but working with colleagues across the hospital to provide support to Covid wards. As Macmillan nurses we were able to use our communications skills to support families whose loved ones are admitted to critical care with Covid.”

Sian was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in July 2019 and shares her perspective having experienced the pandemic as both a nurse and a cancer patient.

“Due to my treatment for cancer I have had to shield throughout the pandemic. Working as a Macmillan Lead Cancer Nurse from home has been a challenge but the support from my team and ability to meet online remotely and keep in contact with my colleagues has made life bearable. I’m proud that we have continued to work as one team regardless of where we are based and I am very grateful to my team for their continued support and care.

“Speaking as a patient myself, the nursing team have been incredible, nothing has been too much trouble despite their busy workload.”  

Teenage Cancer Trust Specialist Nurse based at University Hospitals Plymouth

Hannah Heayn, was redeployed to the palliative care team in the coronavirus ward. During the height of the pandemic, family members weren’t allowed to visit their loved ones in hospitals and staff were so busy that facilitating regular update calls with families was challenging. Hannah helped organise a ‘covid comms’ team of nurses, who gave daily updates to a designated family member or loved one, facilitated video calls and organised last-days-of-life visits.

Hannah said, “We had to have some really complex and difficult conversations with family members about their loved ones. As a nurse who is used to speaking to teenagers and young adults about cancer diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, and death I felt well equipped to facilitate this. Though it was really hard, I felt so privileged that I was in a position to support people through such difficult times. This year has been incredibly challenging, but it has made me so proud to do what I do.”

Megan Muirhead and Lydia Nowak are running 500 miles for St Lukes Hospice

Megan and Lydia are full-time serving military nurses working within across Derriford hospital and other parts of the UK, but Scotland is home for them. It’s been nearly a year since Megan and Lydia have been able to return home to Scotland to visit their friends and families.

Over Christmas, they found themselves spending the holiday season 500 miles from home but creating a new friendship along the way. They decided to feel a little closer to home, they would run the 500 miles, setting themselves the challenge to complete the distance within three months. The challenge started on April 1st and their goal is to complete the 500 miles by June 30th.

The pair said: “We aren’t doing all this for the blisters and the joint ache – we’ve decided between us of a very deserving charity based in Plymouth, who have provided incredible support not only during the pandemic but throughout the years and I’m sure many of you are familiar with – St Lukes Hospice.”

Last year St Lukes cared for over 1,764 people in the local community living with a life-limiting illness. This involves care from Doctors, Nurses, Social workers and Occupational Therapists to patients and family members. This care can take place at Derriford Hospital or out in the community, so patients can be in the comfort of their own home.

With over £900 raised so far, they’re nearly halfway to reaching their £2,000 target. You can follow Megan and Lydia and support their fundraising journey by visiting their Go Fund Me page here:

Coming up

Join us for a very special International Nurses Day themed Schwartz Round on 26 May 2021 at 13:00.

If you would like to share your story at the round, please get in touch with Dr Julia Bird, Clinical Psychologist, email:

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What it’s like to be a deaf staff member

This week we celebrate national Deaf Awareness week. Amanda Holland, who works at the Outpatients Appointment Centre, made a video to explain what it’s like to be a deaf staff member. If you don’t speak sign language, please turn the subtitles on. Thank you.

[Transcript below]

Hello my name is Amanda Holland and I am profoundly Deaf, and a British Sign Language user.  I work for OAC, Outpatients Appointments Centre.  There will be no sounds on this video, just subtitles for you to understand what I am going to say.

Thank you, DAWN – Disability Staff Network, for giving me this opportunity to share information about deafness and myself.


Subtitles are an important part of my life. To watch TV, films, programmes, YouTube videos, social media videos, etc.  It is impossible for me to hear what people say on video, even lipreading is hard. Subtitles are much easier and enable me to enjoy watching those videos.


Communication can be a positive or negative experience when stepping out of my home.  Not knowing if people understand me or not.  I don’t speak clearly because I can’t hear my own voice to understand what I say, so I use memory to remember how and what I say.  When I was young, I was taught how to lipread and how to speak.  In my school we had hearing and deaf people therefore we know how to communicate with both.  Unfortunately, not many people know how to communicate with deaf people.  It would be great for everyone to learn basic sign language to start with, so they can communicate with us.  I am happier when I had a good conversation with anyone who makes an effort to communicate with me. I enjoy it.


I wear a mask when I am out to protect myself and others.  The problem I have is that I’m unable to read lips if people have their masks on and can’t hear what they say.  I have to ask them to stay 2 metres apart and move the mask down. Most of the time they do, which I am relieved.


Many times I can see people think I can’t do something because of my deafness – “oh they can’t do it because they are deaf”.  It take right people to see me as a person who can do.  Nothing stops me from giving it a go. Once I went on TV Quiz Show.  I bought this place through a mortgage; communicated with the bank and lawyer to get the place as my own through mortgage, I communicated by myself – I can do it. In the past, I passed and carry full licence to ride motorbikes and went to the Isle of Man. I had fantastic time.  I was a Deaf Advocate for 6 years to assist Deaf service users to access the services they needed.  I am most grateful to the person who offered me my current role because they see me as the person who can do this role.  I am very grateful.


I am very proud to had joined and be involved with DAWN – Disability Staff Network.  This enables me to help them and UHP, University Plymouth Hospital, sorry, University Hospitals Plymouth, with my knowledge and background as a deaf person, and my abilities and skills.


My hope and ambition is to get UHP, University Hospitals Plymouth, to be accessible for deaf people and everybody, even me.

Thank you for watching.


Lesbian Visibility Week – 26-30th April 2021

Lesbian Visibility Week is so important to celebrate the diversity in our organisation and community and provides the opportunity to uplift LGBT+ women and non-binary people from all backgrounds.

Charlie Le Brun

Everybody in the LGBT+ community has a story unique to them, and part of why these stories are shared is to provide support to those who may be struggling to embrace their own identity.

I never reference a specific coming out story personally as it’s not a one off event in my eyes. I come out to almost every new friend or colleague I meet and will continue to do so for the rest of my life! I first came out in 2018 and was met with so much positivity and support; something I am endlessly grateful for, knowing that others are not so lucky.

There is so much that can be done to support and embrace colleagues and friends who identify as lesbian or LGBT+. I personally struggle with the never ending recurrence of having to correct people who automatically assume that I am straight. I believe that in most cases this is due to lack of education which highlights that there is a huge amount of work to be done to ensure we can all feel seen and accepted without explanation or the fear of being judged.

I am still navigating my way through being an openly gay woman both personally and in the workplace, but unapologetically being myself was the greatest gift I could have ever given myself. There is truly no greater gift than not hiding who you are. We’re all different, and the more we share our lived experiences, the more opportunities we give ourselves to become a more inclusive world.

Charlie Le Brun
LGBT+ Network Member

UHP Pathology

I was a patient in ICU, so I knew I had to help during COVID-19

Paediatric Nurse Victoria Whittley had been a patient in intensive care. When she was given the opportunity to be redeployed to ICU during the second wave of Covid, she knew she wanted to do it.

In 2015, she was 38 when a bad case of influenza turned to pneumonia and sepsis very quickly.

“I’d always been fit and healthy, so didn’t recognise how poorly I was”, she said. However, on Christmas day she was rushed into hospital with a temperature of 41.5 and deteriorated rapidly. She moved to the intensive care unit, and was paralysed, sedated and intubated.

Victoria was very sick with multiple organ failure. She was put on dialysis and her family were called in on Boxing Day to say their goodbyes.

“When Dad got home, he didn’t even take his shoes off. They’d been told to expect the phone call.

Watch the full story

“I was intubated for twelve days and was critical that whole time. I had bilateral blood clots in both jugulars, and when they tried to extubate me I had to have a tracheostomy. I was proned because my lungs were so bad and collapsed”, she said.

But, after recovering and learning to walk , talk and getting back to work again, Victoria joined the team of ten staff from Children’s theatres who went to help out in ICU. She felt like it would be part of her own healing process to care for patients who were in the same boat she’d once been in.

“ICU were absolutely brilliant, I owe them my life and I always wanted to give back to them. It felt like the ultimate full circle to go back to work there.

“I knew I was putting myself in an uncomfortable position but the one thing I wanted to do was make sure that the people I was looking after felt safe.”

Sophie Allen – Vaccinator at Home Park, Plymouth

“When the Covid pandemic hit last March I was working as cabin crew for Norwegian Air. We were originally furloughed and the last month we have all been made redundant as the company stopped operating.

“When I was first furloughed I set up a First Aid Instructor business to ensure I had something else to do if the worst happened. The business is going well, and when the opportunity to help with the Mass Vaccination centre came up, I felt I had the right skills and I really wanted to do my bit.

“I have been working at the Home Park vaccination centre since it centre opened as an administrator and I am now being trained as a vaccinator. It has been a fantastic opportunity and a way to use my existing medical knowledge.

“I love the fact that every day is different and there is such a fast pace – the days fly by!

“In the future I am thinking about staying in healthcare, maybe training as a paramedic or growing my business further.

“Although being made redundant from a job I loved was tough, the whole experience has given me new opportunities for the future – I am excited about what lies ahead.”