As part of the NHS 72nd birthday celebrations, we are thanking our exceptional staff across the trust for their contribution during the pandemic. One such person, Alastair Wilson, recently received a Star of the Month award for his outstanding and devoted contribution to Whipps Cross Hospital. We spoke to him to find out more:
Tell us more about you and your role within the hospital.
My role is head of facilities for Whipps Cross Hospital and I am also the patient Catering and work closely with the Contracts team supporting Elior our retail partner for the trust. I’ve worked at Whipps Cross for eight years and I look after soft services supplied by our partners including SERCO, Cribs, and, starting this weekend, Linet, our new bed suppliers. I play a role in patient dining across the trust..
How did your role change during the pandemic and what challenges did you face?
My role drastically changed during the pandemic and every day was different. I had no idea what to expect from day to day. One of my biggest challenges, and something I wouldn’t normally expect to face, was that I began daily monitoring of the deceased, alongside Cribs, our mortuary provider. I consistently checked that patients were handled with dignity and I managed the relationship between our site and support hubs that were set up for the pandemic. I arranged to increase our own onsite capacity, allowing us to treat and maintain our patients onsite to ensure they received the dignity they deserved. I found it moving and incredibly emotional at times, because I started my day by visiting the deceased and ended my day by doing the same. I also supported clinical teams who were under immense pressure by providing free food as well as supporting other wellbeing initiatives.
How did you overcome these challenges?
To be honest, I don’t know if I ever did. The emotion and the learning of having to deal with the things we saw on a day to day basis is something that will live with me forever.
You played a big role in organising donations, how did it feel being able to hand out so many gifts to staff?
There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’ and I was only a small cog in the big wheel that was organising donations. I worked with Katie Edmondson, Claire Davies and Charmaine Yankee to make receiving and distribution of donations a success – without the team spirit it would have been unmanageable. I felt overwhelmed at times with the sheer expanse of what was provided. Staff were acknowledged for their hard work on a daily basis and the look on their faces was phenomenal. A lot of the donations came from people within the local community who had previously been cared for at Whipps Cross and wanted to give something back.
You played a role in supporting health and wellbeing too, can you tell us more about that?
Again, I’m only a small part of the team who have supported and will continue to support the health and wellbeing of staff. The pandemic has shown us just how important this is. We will continue to look at ways that we can improve our wellbeing offering – the wellbeing hubs are a great achievement and a place where staff can sit quietly or go and speak to somebody.
You are also a co-chair of the BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) network, can you tell us what this means to you?
It means a lot to have been chosen to support my BME colleagues on site at Whipps Cross but also across the trust. We have a way to go to ensure that the trust is a completely inclusive place to work, but I believe we can, all of us together, bring about change.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
My association as a business partner with Project Search, a programme that delivers the best employment outcomes for students with learning disabilities and autistic spectrum conditions, meant that I was previously nominated by the trust to receive an invitation to Buckingham Palace, where I attended a garden party. I believe strongly in the work we do as a trust with Project Search and this will be my seventh year that I have been involved with this initiative. I expanded the initiative from Whipps Cross Hospital to the Royal London Hospital and it’s been great to see it grow from strength to strength.