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Non-executive director Louisa Pepper writes of staff courage

Louisa Pepper, non-executive director at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) and retired police officer, writes of our staff ‘courage, fortitude and self-sacrifice’.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is an issue of debate nationally at the moment due to its importance in this pandemic. As a non-executive director and retired police officer, I know how important it is to wear PPE for the appropriate situation.

For me, it was body armour, baton, CS spray and those fetching hats, or in a riot, public order uniform. For our NHS staff, it is very different but no less vital. The equipment protects you from a perceived or actual threat, but can also afford protection to the people or patients you come into contact with.

I often found PPE and public order helmets cumbersome, at times uncomfortable, not to mention when my glasses often steamed up. I can imagine gowns, gloves and FFP2 and 3 masks are similar. Mine protected me from weapons and petrol bombs, and that of my colleagues protects them against an unseen virus, COVID-19.

After a long shift, I relished discarding PPE and slipping into a hot shower. It was often then that I reflected on my experiences. Often, it was a fleeting thought; could I have done things differently or had I learnt anything? On occasions, incidents weighed on my mind. If this happens to you, please can I encourage you to talk to a friend or seek help? It’s often only afterwards that we realise how something has affected us psychologically.

My non-executive director colleagues and I are often working remotely to encourage social distancing at the Trust. One of my roles is chair of the medical ethics advisory group, set up as part of the WSFT COVID-19 response. It’s a multi-disciplinary committee, including health professionals and lay members, that aims to provide support for decision making on ethical issues arising from the provision of patient care.

The debates have been lively and forthright, with those present seeking to effectively balance patient safety, staff safety and patient choice. New and emerging issues are considered, as well as previous recommendations if further information becomes available. The committee’s recommendations are forwarded to a Strategic executive group for their decision; it is not easy, and choices have to be made, all with the best intentions, in this difficult pandemic.

Finally, as I reflect on this developing COVID-19 world, I am quietly pleased to have two of my young people home. Managing their altered life/career expectations is, however, an unforeseen challenge, one that I know many parents will sympathise with. One, whose second year university studies plans didn’t feature virtual tutorials, essay submissions from home and no lazy summer evenings with friends. The other, with international aviation training postponed. I wonder how we will all look back on this time? I for one will recall an amazing WSFT team, that has displayed courage, fortitude and self-sacrifice.

I continue to thank our NHS colleagues for everything they have done, are doing and will do. They are all inspirational – and as a community we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

Louisa 

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Louisa Pepper, non-executive director at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

Louisa Pepper, non-executive director at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.