The Wokingham Paper

Royal Berkshire Hospital plans to turn donations into staff welfare centre

Steve McManus
Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Steve McManus

STAFF at the Royal Berkshire Hospital can look forward to a permanent welfare centre thanks to donations you’ve made during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief executive Steve McManus said that the centre would include a breakout space for people who want to discuss mental health and wellbeing issues, as well as helping staff work through some of the incidents that have occurred at the Reading-based hospital.

“We’ve canvassed staff as to what they’d like to see, and with the additional donations we’ve received, we’re looking to create that permanent facility,” he said.

“Staff have really experienced some challenging months, and done some amazing work.”

The hospital is starting to get back to normal now that it has just six coronavirus patients in its care. Clinics are starting to reopen and inpatients are returning for appointments.

“I’m really, really proud of the whole team across the Royal Berkshire,” said Mr McManus. “Because of our people, we’ve always been two steps ahead (of the virus).

“We were able to prepare for the level of demand in March and April, and in the last couple of months, we’ve put the hospital back together again and restored services.

“At all stages, we’ve been two steps ahead. It’s been a huge effort for all services.”

He added that once the hospital was past the initial peak of the virus, it needed to remind the community that anyone with symptoms heart attacks and strokes should use emergency services.

“More recently, we’ve been putting the message out that we are resuming services, it’s very safe and appropriate for patients to come,” Mr McManus said.

“And throughout, critical services, such as cancer treatments, ran as normal.”

But the challenge still remains, even though the country’s alert level has gone down from 4 to 3 – the virus is still among us and the need for us to socially distance, washing hands and wearing face coverings remains.

“Throughout everything, we have adapted to create safe environments. It might look different, different signage, there’s hand gels, we’ve looked at how people move around, but it’s always been about creating a safe environment for patients,” Mr McManus said.

And the hospital has really “scaled up” the digital appointments, be it on phone on video.

“There are some services were face-to-face is absolutely necessary, but a lot of digital treatments have been really, really helped during the period. Our clinical records are in digital form, and it’s helped having them in front of clinicians.

“What we’ve wanted is to be able to offer a number of different ways for people to interact with us.”

At the height of the pandemic, a pop-up village was installed in Reading School, giving staff treating coronavirus patients somewhere safe to stay. As well as sleep pods, there was a pop-up supermarket.

Mr McManus was delighted with the service.

“Staff could book accommodation and save a long journey home; it allowed staff to get over concerns of working and then going home to the family, protecting them and letting them stay at work.”

And it is the pressures caused by treating the virus that led to the idea of a permanent welfare centre for staff. Throughout the pandemic, the hospital has been offering mental and physical health support.

“Our ethos has always been about our people, and to create conditions for them to do an outstanding job,” Mr McManus said. “Our staff asked us to put this in place, we’ve listened to them. We know that staff mental health is really important – the pandemic has put staff into challenging situations, they really value that support.”

For now though, an opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief. While the coronavirus is not defeated, the initial wave has passed.

And that means taking stock. Asked if he had any messages for readers, Mr McManus had one:

“A heartfelt thank you on behalf of staff to the readers of Wokingham.Today for the support they’ve shown.”

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