Whittington issues appeal for cash to support its staff

As Omicron variant sweeps through London, Whittington hospital calls for donations to support staff

Friday, 17th December 2021 — By Anna Lamche and Richard Osley

Michelle Johnson

Chief nurse Michelle Johnson 

THE Whittington Hospital last night (Thursday) appealed for help to support staff plunged back onto the frontline of the Covid crisis.

With warnings that a rise in serious cases is now inevitable as the Omicron variant sweeps through London and the UK, the hospital is bracing itself for another Christmas when the NHS will be tested to its limits.

The appeal is openly asking for cash donations to help.

Michelle Johnson, the hospital’s chief nurse, said: “When the pandemic was at its worst, we benefited from the inspiring generosity of our community. We couldn’t have gotten through such difficult times without them. But the pandemic isn’t over, winter is just beginning, and our staff are already working incredibly hard to treat those people who are acutely unwell and those with Covid-19 who need our care as well as trying to treat those waiting for planned procedures as quickly and safely as possible.”

She added: “All the money you give will go towards funding projects that support and thank our staff this Christmas and into the New Year.”

As part of the appeal, the hospital circulated case studies of what some of the staff were facing. The Whittington is not using the staff’s full names, but says Sena, a nurse at the hospital, will be working on Christmas Day.

“My children have to wait for me to come home before we can open presents and eat together as a family, but they never complain, and I know they are proud of me,” she said.

Nurses, porters, doctors, care assistants, housekeepers and midwives will all be working over the next few weeks, caring for patients who are too ill to be with their loved ones.

The appeal said £25 will buy a “self-care” gift box for someone working over the Christmas period, while £50 will pay for a clinical psychologist to run a group session for staff, helping them recover from the trauma of working through the pandemic. And £100 will fund the staff lounge with refreshments for a day.

Amir, a Whittington doctor, said: “It is very difficult – we miss our own families and are taking care of people who are fearful and dealing with a combination of physical illness and sadness that they are not at home for Christmas. Doctors are fearful like everyone else at the moment that they risk taking Covid-19 back to their own families.”

And ICU matron Zoe says working over the holidays is a necessary sacrifice: “It’s incredibly difficult to be away from our families at Christmas and incredibly difficult to be somewhere often full of sadness – but it is lovely to be able to care for people who need us and especially those without families or visitors at Christmas. It’s difficult, but we’re needed.”

The appeal comes amid a surging number of cases and calls for everybody to get a Covid vaccine booster injection as soon as possible. Booking websites have been inundated, while queues for walk-in centres have in some cases stretched beyond the two-hour mark.

Some events have been cancelled, while pubs and restaurants have indicated that they are suffering from cancelled bookings.

Anybody who tests positive with Covid now will be spending Christmas Day in isolation.

Arsenal’s home match against West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium did go ahead on Wednesday night, but other fixtures across the football leagues have been postponed.

Meanwhile, three Islington schools switched to remote learning – the method used during the coronavirus lockdowns.

Most are due to break up for the Christmas holidays today (Friday), but there are discussions about what measures should be in place when children return next year.

Prime minister Boris Johnson asked people to return to home working under “plan B” rules, and masks are now mandatory in public places like transport and shops.

While some workplaces have made their own decisions to cancel Christmas parties, Mr Johnson himself has not made that order.

This is against the backdrop of ongoing controversies over parties that took place in Downing Street and elsewhere during last year’s Christmas lockdown.

At a press conference on Tuesday – a day when 80,000 new cases of Covid were recorded – the government’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said: “I think what most people are doing – and I think this seems very sensible – is prioritising the social interactions that mean a lot to them and, to prioritise those ones, de-prioritising ones that mean much less to them.”

Dr Nikki Kanani, medical director of primary care for NHS England, advised against going to football matches, adding: “My advice would be if you’re going to go to a stadium at the weekend, make it one where you can get your vaccine or help out to give a vaccine, rather than going to watch a match.”

Booster walk-in services are available at the Resource for London building in Holloway Road and West Library site in Bridgeman Road – but with long wait-time warnings. A new service is also set to open at the Business Design Centre.

You can donate to the appeal online at: www.whittingtonhealth charity.org

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