NHS staff praised for heroic efforts during big freeze
NHS staff have taken "extraordinary measures" to ensure patients are still treated despite the treacherous weather conditions, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has said.
Mr Stevens described how health workers have walked miles in snow, dug vehicles out of drifts and slept in hospitals as the country is gripped by the big freeze.
He singled out a London-based paramedic who attended emergency calls by cycling to them, and hospital staff in Sunderland for special praise, and also thanked the Army for stepping in to help with transport.
"In these adverse circumstances, NHS staff have taken extraordinary measures to get into work and look after patients," he said.
"Once again the NHS is showing that we are there for people when they need us and that's all down to our staff, so a huge thank you to everybody across the NHS who is going the extra mile for people at this highly pressurised time.
"We've seen examples across the country, including Kat, a paramedic from London Ambulance service, who cycled to her blue light emergencies when the vehicles couldn't get through.
"And staff in Sunderland who stayed overnight in the hospital last night, as has happened in many places around the country in order to be there for patients."
Speaking to the Nuffield Trust on Friday, Mr Stevens added: "I also want to thank the Army - in certain parts of the country where they have helped to get our staff into work, we have seen that in the South West and parts of Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Lincolnshire."
Devon GP Dr Glen Allaway spent the last two nights sleeping at Lynton health centre to ensure he was at the surgery to see patients, while his community nurse has been reaching patients in their homes by walking or using a quad bike.
In Derbyshire, NHS staff were transported to work at Chesterfield Royal Hospital in a local teacher's 4×4, while in Norfolk, where rural villages have been totally cut off, two farmers helped the Acle Medical Centre deliver medication in their tractors.
Another doctor battled for four hours to get to work, twice having his car dug out of snow drifts.
At Nottingham Children's Hospital, the play staff turned the icy conditions to their advantage, bringing trays of snow into the hospital so their young patients could enjoy making a snowman as they could not go outside.
Hospital spokeswoman Emily Bishton said: "It was a brilliant example of innovative play as well as an opportunity to maintain normality while in hospital."
Meanwhile in Lincoln, mental health ward manager Amy Semper walked a 16-mile round trip through the snow to support her patients and staff.
A nurse at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust also walked 10 miles in the snow to treat patients, while many staff have also been sleeping at there.
Volunteers from St John Ambulance have also been lending a hand, with their vehicles joining ambulances responding to 999 calls in parts of the country.
They have also been providing first aid at some emergency rest centres set up to shelter motorists caught out by the snow storms.
In Devon, NHS staff were ferried to work by the charity, with separate teams helping transport patients in Cornwall and Bristol.
Chief executive Martin Houghton-Brown said: "Despite the snow, wind and ice - plus the freezing temperatures that come with it, our volunteers have been stepping up to help our communities, making it clear that St John Ambulance will not be defeated by the Beast from the East.
"Along with employees, they have responded to the challenges with professionalism and showing a real dedication to provide first aid and care where it is needed.
"With the weekend approaching, preparations are being put in place to ensure we can continue to provide first aid to the public at events and in our communities.
"And we will also carry on working closely with NHS Ambulance Trusts, deploying our ambulances and 4x4s to help ease the strain the severe weather puts on them. "