‘Don’t stand down, stand ready’ says Greenfield woman of the centre of Nightingale operation

A GREENFIELD woman at the forefront of establishing the NHS Nightingale North West Hospital says the Manchester city centre based facility remains a core element in the fight against Covid-19.

Justine Theaker confirmed services at the Nightingale will be crucial if there is a new spike in coronavirus cases.Less than 60 patients have been treated since the field hospital – built in only two weeks – officially opened on April 17.

At the time it had capacity to care for around 600 coronavirus sufferers no long deemed in need of critical care.

But Justine, chief allied health professional for the Nightingale, said: “We are assessing on a weekly basis the type of patients who actually need to be using the hospital and adjusting our services accordingly.

“There is no intention of standing this down for the next couple of months at least.

“We need to be assessing the next wave, if there is a next wave. We are standing ready to take the pressure off the hospitals.

“Heaven forbid we step this down and we get a second wave and we are not ready for it.

“As soon as staff leave this site it would take us another four weeks to step it back up again.

“What we are doing at the Nightingale is offering more rehab for those patients rather than us standing down.

“We had a briefing with the military and they told us ‘don’t stand down, stand ready’.

“‘You are training for battle but you are hoping for peace’ which has been my mantra.”Justine, a clinical academic in her ‘day job’, worked 17-hour days, alongside NHS colleagues and military staff, helping set up the new facility.

Much has been achieved in a small space of time since the chief medical officer for the Manchester University Foundation Trust – which hosts the Nightingale – entrusted the hospital’s allied health provision to Justine.

There are 15 professions within allied health, including occupational therapists, dieticians, physiotherapists, speech and language.

“You know when someone says it has been a steep learning curve, this has been a vertical launch,” admitted Justine.

“When I first arrived the only thing in place was a ‘finger in the air guess’ they might need some allied health professional staff. There was nothing when I first started.”

With in excess of 32,000 deaths, including NHS staff and key workers, and around 223,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases, these are sobering times.

“No one goes into healthcare to put their health at risk and to put their lives at risk,” says Justine.
“If you were happy with that you would probably go into the military.

“So, you have to take a balanced, pragmatic view and try not to overthink things while making sure you practice good hand hygiene and safe practice with regard to infection prevention and control.

“When I spray the front door handle when I get back from work, I wash my hands, spray my shoes and the uniform goes straight into the washing machine on a 60 degrees cycle.

“I have very little socialisation with anyone except my husband Dave, who is the one who shops at Tesco.

“If we walk along the towpath, we keep a two metres distance. And I keep away from everyone else to make sure I am not increasing my risk.”

Justine admits her workload prior to the coronavirus outbreak had been sufficiently challenging. But she has had to re-evaluate any desire to take a break.

The PHD she was due to finish next year has also been placed on hold together with her 50th birthday celebrations on May 1.

“With my PHD and everything else I do in my normal clinical role I was really busy and just needed to stop and take a breath,” she said.

“I just wanted to press pause on the world and get off it. But here we are now. Who would have thought that?”

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