Our Covid heroes step up to support pandemic response

12 February 2021

The heroic efforts of NHS staff battling Covid-19 on the frontline have made us all proud.

To support these critical services, NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (KMCCG) has redeployed colleagues whose skills and experience are making a vital difference to our frontline pandemic response and the successful management of the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Sharon Lee (pictured), a Queen’s Nurse and clinician of more than 40 years’ service, works in our Primary Care Workforce Team, but has been putting her clinical skills into action two days-a-week at the large vaccination centres. 

She said: “My role means I am right there on the frontline vaccinating people as they come through the system. Recently, one of the members of public was brought along by his daughter, as he was in a wheelchair. After I had given the vaccination, his daughter burst into tears – she was just so relieved that he now had his first dose.

“I know putting in these shifts on the vaccination frontline means I can do my bit in helping vaccinate people faster and it will allow us to make a start in getting back some normality in our lives.”

Teresa WatsonMedicines Optimisation Technician Teresa Watson splits her time between working 12-hour shifts at one of our hospital hubs, diluting and drawing up the vaccines in preparation for the vaccinators to administer, and assisting at the primary care network vaccination sites across the county.

Teresa said: “Working outside my usual role has been challenging but very rewarding. It has given me the opportunity to see a different side to working in primary care, to learn new skills as well as supporting the work the NHS is doing to fight Covid-19.”

Behind the scenes, there is also an army of NHS colleagues working hard to support patient-facing services to continue to safely operate through the pandemic and winter pressures.

At KMCCG, the heart of that system is the Operational Control Centre (OCC). It co-ordinates and supports the operational response across local health and care organisations and acts as the conduit up to NHS England and government departments.

The busy and fast-paced centre operates 12 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week.

For many months, a number of CCG colleagues have been redeployed to the OCC to help support the team. They work on a shift rota, sometimes returning to their normal duties after downtime or sometimes straight back into another shift.

From supporting hospital bed capacity planning to being the link between community and hospital services to support discharging patients as they recover from Covid-19, it is fast-paced, intense and essential work and countless times, our people have more than risen to the challenge.

Beckie BurnFor our Deputy Director of Strategic Change Beckie Burn (pictured), this has involved working as a Deputy Operational Commander in the OCC with the seven intensive care units across Kent and Medway to ensure that we have enough capacity for patients who require ventilation.

Beckie said “We have been working with the critical care units to support them and ensure equipment, staffing and oxygen arrangements are in place for these beds.

“Working together in this way always gives us the best chance of making a difference for our patients.”

Jemma BleskyBy day a project manager in our Children’s and Maternity Commissioning Team, Jemma Blesky (pictured) stepped up to help the OCC to “play her part”.

Jemma said: “I’m really glad to be a part of the team. There is a real sense of camaraderie between those working on the rota and it feels good to play a small part in supporting the pandemic response.”

Executive Director of Corporate Affairs Mike Gilbert, who is responsible for oversight of the emergency planning response, said: “The OCC plays a central role in the co-ordination and leadership of maintaining a safe, effective health and care service across Kent and Medway.

“We couldn’t do this without all our colleagues, who have been working tirelessly throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. I want to thank them all for their huge contributions. To me and my executive colleagues, they are all heroes.”

Thank you to all our #NHSCovidHeroes.

Nikki JaggerCompliance Manager Nikki Jagger’s usual role is in Corporate Services, but since March she has been working in the Covid-19 Operational Control Centre (OCC).

Her role as an incident manager has seen her making sure the OCC is staffed from 8am to 8pm, seven-days-a-week. The OCC has an operational, deputy operational and incident commander in place, two incident managers and two business supports covering the 12-hour shifts.

Nikki explains what the incident manager and business support roles involve:

“The OCC is busy with long hours and can require working under pressure to achieve tight timescales. However, there is a great team effort which helps us to achieve our objectives.

“Before joining, colleagues are briefed by the Associate Director for Emergency Preparedness Resilience and Response about the different roles and how the OCC works.

“Every shift, the Incident Manager attends a range of meetings to maintain awareness of pressures on the health systems across the South East and taking actions as needed. They support the OCC commanders by completing situation reports, sourcing and collating Kent and Medway information for returns to NHS England and they manage the Covid inbox, ensuring queries and actions are completed promptly. An end of day report is drafted, approved by the Operational Commander and issued."

Kelly McCreadie.pngKelly McCreadie is one of the CCG’s office managers in Corporate Services. Since December, she has also been supporting the Operational Control Centre (OCC).

Kelly gives us her take on what it is like be a part of the OCC team:

“I offer admin support to the team providing sets of minutes, filing emails and other general admin. The hours are long - 8am to 8pm - and it's usual to work two-to-three shifts in a row, sometimes including weekends.

“I still work in my usual office manager role and tend to work a few days in the OCC, get a few days downtime, then return to my normal role. This can be challenging but my team really support me and look after my workload as best as they can during my absence.

“The OCC shifts hold their own challenges. The pace is fast and intense and you are noting meetings which contain sensitive information. However there are big advantages too - mainly the sense of achievement for doing your bit to support the pandemic.

“I have many friends and colleagues that work for the NHS and other healthcare providers. Some are frontline in primary care and community settings, some are working on the vaccination programme and one of my friends works for Pfizer, so it's nice to feel I am doing my bit too and offering my support where I can.”

Sam DelahaySam Delahay’s permanent role is Committees Officer in Corporate Services. In November, she was redeployed to the Operational Control Centre (OCC) to help with the smooth running of the busy and fast-paced hub.

She said: “Joining the OCC was a daunting prospect, but I can honestly say it has been a very humbling experience.

“I get to see how frontline teams work with each other, this includes our acute hospitals, South East Coast Ambulance Service, (SECAmb) as well as community and local authorities, and how they are dealing with and managing this awful virus. 

“Working in the OCC is hard. There are a lot of notes to take at meetings, which need to be turned around quickly. The email box is constantly busy and it is part of my role to monitor it closely to ensure things like critical transfers and mutual aid get sent to the right places and people.

“Some days you can feel quite sad by the end of it, particularly when you hear of patients that have died and what the hospitals and SECAmb have to do each and every day.

“I feel very humbled and grateful to be a part of this and will continue to do my part for as long as I am asked to do so.”

Sam Page.pngSam Page is an executive assistant. She was redeployed to the Operational Control Centre (OCC) in May 2020.

Sam said: “At first, I was nervous because I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the pace and I would struggle. But this has not been the case. Everyone in the OCC is very supportive and very vocal. We check in with each other at least three times-a-day on workload and if anyone else can help, they do.

“I won’t lie, the OCC is busy and that’s a fact. However, there are at least six members of the team who all support each other to manage the workload. It’s an eye opener to the outside world.

“For me, being redeployed has been a really positive experience. It has given me a real insight into how hard the hospitals across Kent and Medway are working during this pandemic.”

Can you help us improve healthcare in Kent and Medway?

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Right now we are playing a key role in the nation's fight against Covid-19.

Interested? Visit our vacancies page on NHS Jobs.

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