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Staying home was ‘never an option’ for committed health and social care staff

PUBLISHED: 17:03 28 February 2018 | UPDATED: 17:16 28 February 2018

Jen Clarke, Laura Park, Simon Gardner and Gergana Leuw who walked to work at the NNUH. Photo: Jen Clarke

Jen Clarke, Laura Park, Simon Gardner and Gergana Leuw who walked to work at the NNUH. Photo: Jen Clarke

Jen Clarke

It forced many to abandon their cars or stay tucked up at home, but the Beast from the East could not prevent the region’s dedicated public servants from getting to those who needed them.

NHS staff, police officers, firefighters and more braved the snow - which was nine inches deep in places - with many taking to social media to document their slippery walks or traffic trouble.

Jen Clarke, an occupational therapist at NNUH, decided her usual cycle to work from her home in Bolingbroke Road, in Mile Cross, Norwich, was not an option.

Mrs Clarke, 31, said: “I took a look out the window and realised transport was not going to happen. I left at 7.15am and it took about an hour and 45 minutes.”

She said her spirits were lifted by meeting colleagues along the way but not going in was “never an option”.

She said: “It matters to the patients that there are people there, that they care, and you’re supporting people going through quite traumatic times.”

Mother-of-two Mrs Clarke, who works on the stroke unit, said she would usually only work a half day but had volunteered to stay to help out as other staff had not been able to get in.

Some workers at the NNUH stayed past the end of their normal shifts to make sure patients were kept safe until morning staff could make it to the hospital.

Sarah Cavell, a lead nurse in the community liaison team with Norfolk Community Health and Care, also pulled on her wellies for the walk.

Ms Cavell, 56, lives in Marlingford and is based at NNUH, but she got stuck at Bawburgh on her drive in so instead she pounded the pavements.

She said: “Obviously the primary reason is we know there are patients who need to be looked after. But as a nurse I also think about all my colleagues who have been here all night who were staying on.

“It’s about everyone, from the cleaners and caterers, I’m looking out the window and can see men with shovels in the car park, we all pull together.”

Another good samaritan ensuring the health service continued to operate was RNLI volunteer Lee Staff, from Belton.

Mr Staff, 48, who works for a haulage company, took to his 4x4 and drove two emergency doctors from Norwich to James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston.

He said: “I do it because there is a good reward to volunteering. It is what you have got to do and if everyone did it we would all get along a lot better.”

Council boss’ praise

Vulnerable people still got their visits from Norfolk County Council support workers - after they abandoned their cars and walked round to people who need services.

Tina Frarey and Debbie Vardy normally work in Ludham but live in North Walsham, they went out to visit service users in North Walsham this morning on foot.

Shelly Peacock and Tina Pickett planned on heading out tonight (Wednesday) to visit service users in Sprowston and Thorpe St Andrew.

Sara Sidell, a support worker who was not due to be working, was also going out on foot to do visits in Thorpe St Andrew tonight.

Mel Sturman, moving and handling advisor, called first thing this morning to offer to do calls in Thetford, not only during her shift, but also cancelling personal plans so she could visit into the evening.

And support worker, Dianne Gee, drove from Crostwick to Thorpe, visited her own service users and more, including a lady who needed hoisting and would have been stuck in bed without her.

Helen Stokes, Norfolk First Response service manager, said: “What is impressive about the support workers in this weather is the complete lack of fuss they make about getting to people.

“They simply call each other and their managers, agree what calls need to be prioritised, who needs to go where and get on with it.

“Service users, their carers and families are all very flexible helping out where they can so support workers can get to the most vulnerable people.

“I am always proud of everyone in Norfolk First Response but it is their response to situations like this that really demonstrate their commitment to the people they support.”

The work of adult social care and business support teams at Norfolk County Council as the snowy weather put pressure on services has been praised by County Hall bosses.

Deborah Storey and Jake Smith, from Norwich, made it into work at County Hall to do their work for adult social services, which looks after vulnerable people.

Despite the icy conditions, they walked in and covered not only their own Community Care telephone line, but four additional lines from teams where business support staff had been unable to get in.

Other business support staff continued to offer support from home, asking for lines to be diverted to their mobiles.

Council bosses said it demonstrated the dedication of staff and giving the people of Norfolk a guaranteed voice at the end of the phone.

Donna Gibling, business manager for the central locality at Norfolk County Council, said: “Business support are the glue that holds the teams together.”

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