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23 March 2021

Blog: One Year Since Lockdown: Reflecting On The Past Year And Looking To The Future

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With this week marking a year since the country officially went into lockdown, Jane Ferguson, Director of NHS Lothian Charity, reflects on the past year and how the charity will be supporting NHS Lothian in the aftermath of COVID-19.

March 23rd marks a year since we officially went into our first lockdown and also a year since we launched our NHS Lothian COVID-19 Appeal.

When we launched our appeal, we had no idea what lay ahead, but we knew for certain that those who would be caring for the influx of COVID-19 patients and the challenges that would bring, would themselves need to be cared for.

As the official charity of NHS Lothian, we had a vital role to play in ensuring that we were there to enhance this care, providing support for initiatives and activities that would help look after the mental and physical wellbeing of staff and those they were caring for, as they dealt with the biggest global health crisis of our lifetime.

Providing a helping hand at an important time

After we launched our appeal, we were immediately flooded with donations, and offers of support. Colleagues from across the charity also came together to form a Rapid Response Unit to help manage and co-ordinate the requests for support from staff, and match up the generous donations of gifts in kind from businesses and the local community to those areas that would benefit most from them. The sense of community and the outpouring of kindness were amazing to witness.

This was a critical time for support. Professionally, staff across the whole health service were dealing with a new, highly contagious virus and adapting to new ways of working, and personally, there was a major upheaval to the life we were all used to.

From the everyday to the transformational

From the very start, we were guided by staff on where their areas of greatest need were, so that we could respond quickly and flexibly to the ever-changing situation. Immediate requirements focused heavily on improving environments and lifting spirits for both staff and patients alike. Often, these were small, everyday items, buy they were absolutely crucial during that initial first wave.

As the situation developed, we also began to receive applications for projects where staff were looking to explore new and innovative ways to deliver care while restrictions were in place, ensuring they continued to be there for their patients during these tough and testing times. These requests included; the production of online self-help videos for those who had been attending group therapy sessions to still be able to access mental health support remotely, the transformation of outdoor spaces close to wards to help with rehabilitation and recovery, and specialist kits for dementia patients to provide stimulating activities while ward-based activities were suspended.

We have also been working closely with colleagues across NHS Lothian and with other strategic partners to support projects that will help address the ongoing physical and psychological toll of this virus on both staff and patients. As a result of this collaborative working, we have been able to take forward the following projects in partnership with NHS Lothian:

  • Working with the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) to support communities across Edinburgh and the Lothians who may be adversely affected by the move to more online health services as a means of keeping people safe.
  • Working with Medics Against Violence to support young people across Edinburgh and the Lothians who are facing increased mental health issues as a result of the pandemic, providing the right support at a time when they need it most.
  • Working with the University of Edinburgh to help provide wellbeing support to care home staff to help mitigate the emotional trauma of COVID-19.
  • Working with RSPB to support a green health prescribing pilot that looks at the therapeutic benefits of connecting with nature as a way of enhancing health treatments prescribed by GPs.
  • Working with the Healthy Working Lives team to establish permanent staff wellbeing spaces at every NHS Lothian site to ensure staff have somewhere to go away from the work environment to rest, relax and recharge.
  • Working with Kamwell to provide psychological therapy support for all staff, recognising the increased need for staff mental health support as a result of COVID-19 and enhancing the support that already exists.
  • Working with Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland to help reduce the anxiety of being discharged from hospital by providing tailored information for patients who are returning home, to help them and their families better understand and manage the impact of their illness on their day to day lives.

We were also privileged to be able to support two research projects for Cancer Services who were looking to understand more about the effects of COVID-19 on patients with cancer or those on cancer treatment, taking into account any changes they needed to make to how their treatment was delivered, in order to keep them safe. With the uncertainties that existed and still exist around COVID and cancer, these two projects aim to provide valuable insights on how to support those with cancer and their cancer journey.

I look forward to sharing more details on all of these projects as they develop.

Beyond COVID

The toll that this horrible virus has taken on everyone across the nation cannot be underestimated, and this impact will be felt for a long time to come. It will also be felt acutely by our NHS staff. Their resilience and their ability to deal with the prolonged exposure to the effects of the virus both emotionally and physically will be absolutely essential as we look to the future and the lasting impact of COVID-19 on their health and wellbeing.

The months and years ahead will be difficult and the support from NHS charities like us will be crucial as our health service recovers from the most challenging period in its history. We are not out of the woods yet but we are moving forward, and NHS Lothian Charity will always be there, providing support for staff, patients and their families because that’s what we are here to do.

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