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Mothers’ Union steps in to help snow-trapped medics’ unplanned hospital stay

Posted on: April 4, 2018 10:38 AM
Catherine Swanston, patient services coordinator and matron Julie Waite distribute Mothers’ Union care packages to hospital staff who remained on site during a recent episode of unusually heavy snowfall.
Photo Credit: Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust

When the “Beast from the East” blanketed much of the UK with large amounts of snow at the beginning of March, many roads were impassable, leaving many essential services short of staff. In hospitals around the country, nurses and doctors opted remain at their hospitals in their non-working hours, to ensure they were there for the start of their next shifts. In Newcastle, in the north-east of England, the chaplaincy department at the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust teamed up with the diocesan branch of the Mothers’ Union to provide essential toiletry kits to staff.

The “Beast from the East” was the name given by the media to an unusual weather pattern which saw warmer that average temperatures over the arctic sending colder air further south than normal, resulting in much of western Europe being hit with sustained low temperatures and heavy snow, blown in from Siberia. In the UK, many bus and train services were cancelled, several motorways and major roads were closed, and local roads had treacherous conditions. So when their shifts ended, many hospital staff chose to remain on site to cover for staff who couldn’t make it in to work, and to ensure that there were sufficient staff members on duty when their next shifts started.

While solving one problem, the unexpected overnight stays created another: the staff didn’t have basic toiletries with them. This is where the Mothers’ Union and the hospital’s chaplaincy team stepped in. For a number of years, they had worked together to provide bags of toiletries to all the local hospitals in the Diocese of Newcastle’s area, containing items like toothpaste, shampoo and shower gel. These were used as gifts to patients who had been taken to hospital in an emergency and hadn’t had time to collect their own belongings.

“We supply over a hundred sets each month, with members buying the necessary items in bulk, and meeting regularly to assemble them and take them in to their local hospital, delivering them to each ward as required to top up their supplies,” Newcastle Diocesan Mothers Union President Barbara Packer said. “I believe it makes a huge difference to a lot of people at a moment of crisis.

“When the nurses and doctors were in need of toiletries to make their stay at the hospital more comfortable, fortunately, the hospital staff knew that the kits were already in the hospital. They phoned the Mothers’ Union member responsible, and asked for permission to give some of them to the staff. Of course we were delighted to be able to help.”