Let’s not forget fantastic NHS Staff

At this time of austerity, uncertainty and challenge, it’s easy to overlook those who turn up daily and keep the world ticking over. Alarmist news headlines come and go- we may be relying on the army to drive ambulances. But let’s remember the hundreds of paramedics and ambulance drivers who turn up every day and go over and above each shift. They forgo breaks, finish late and often sit outside hospitals in a van, waiting. NOT doing the job they trained to do. NOT doing what gives them purpose in their work.

It isn’t just the ambulance service

Elective surgery is experiencing unparalleled delay, but let’s not forget the teams who continue to do the best for patients in this taxing environment- dealing with emergencies and fighting with their organisations to admit patients for interventions.

Intensive Care Units are full. Doctors are covering nursing shifts.

Critically ill patients may be transferred between sites to accommodate demand across networks. But people are doing their best.

The show goes on

Despite being exhausted, burnt out and disillusioned, NHS Staff turn up and do everything they can. They battle for beds, staff, investigations, treatment and quality. They must fight for everything, they are weary. But the show goes on. Their care and empathy are never in doubt.

Velindre staff are bringers of hope

We must particularly mention the superb clinical team looking after patients at Velindre Cancer Centre. They are experiencing the same restrictions and fights as the rest of NHS Wales. And they are also undergoing organisational development and flux. Anyone who has experienced something similar will know this adds a whole layer of unpredictability and cognitive stress.

It takes a special person to enter the field of oncology and cancer services. These are the friendly faces, the familiar voices, the gentle hands and the bringers of hope. They meet scared humans for the first time knowing that they will accompany them on an uncomfortable journey to an unknown destination. They must find that balance between honesty and hope, treatment and toxicity, protocolled and personalised care. Yet still they do all this, and remain up to date, involved in research and teaching, undertaking quality improvement and juggling overwhelmed service provision.

These staff are always squeezing a new patient in to overbooked clinics, or ‘just getting back to’ someone who needs to hear their voice long after their day was meant to finish. ‘there is always a patient at the end of it’ is what we say in the NHS.

Patients have had a tough time, too

During the various lockdowns, many cancer patients will have experienced their own combination of life-threatening disease and treatment side effects. They’ve known that developing COVID while immunocompromised would pose a high risk, so many have lived in extreme social isolation.

Imagine trying to support these people and keep their spirits up- knowing that many will sadly live their final days in isolation. Trying to do the complex day job of assessing tumour burdens, planning radiotherapy and speaking to specialist teams with short clinic slots, videoconferencing and wearing facemasks that hide the reassuring smiles.

Thank you, Velindre staff

We hear it time and again. ‘The people at Velindre are amazing. I owe them my life.’

They are appreciated, admired and respected. they do an incredibly tough job with skill, empathy and commitment. The strength of positive feeling towards them from patients and relatives is palpable.

These are extraordinary ordinary people who support cancer patients through the most terrifying, difficult times of their lives. And they will continue to do this, wherever cancer services are located, with compassion and professionalism that cannot be taught. in the face of all the challenges, tomorrow, the day after, and the day after that.