Back to the scrubs

UNISON branch secretary goes back to work as an operating department practitioner to help tackle coronavirus crisis

Paul Pearson in scrubs and cap

Paul Pearson is one of many UNISON activists – and staff – who have stepped in to help out in the coronavirus crisis.

For the last three years Paul has been on full-time release from his duties at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust to concentrate on representing NHS workers as the UNISON Suffolk health branch secretary.

But he is an operating department practitioner by trade. And in the current emergency, he has returned to theatres and critical care, helping patients with COVID-19 and those going through emergency surgery and recovery.

“It’s been inspirational to see so many people returning to the front lines, changing their established practice and taking on 13-hour shifts, and I wanted to do my bit,” Paul told his Bury St Edmunds local paper, the Bury Free Press.

“It’s been made easier by the fantastic work done by West Suffolk Hospital in engaging staff,” he added

“Right from the beginning, unions were involved at the highest levels of emergency workforce planning.

“As a result, the trust has made great efforts to support hospital and community health workers and help them keep going, and we’ve been able to deal with the problems thrown up along the way.

“Of course, West Suffolk is facing the same problems as other trusts across the country trying to prioritise stretched resources, but it’s also setting an example that the best way to deal with them is by working with unions to tap the expertise of its staff.”

Hospital workers have been kept informed of what’s going on through daily all-staff bulletins, while existing annual leave and part-time hours have been protected unless staff want to work more, said Mr Pearson.

The trust also bought 1,000 licences to allow staff who don’t need to be at hospital to practise social distancing and work at home, while a number of non-urgent clinical areas were mothballed to free up staff to tackle COVID-19, with all the training necessary.