Left to right: Emily Convery Strategic Contracts Manager, and Helen Hamilton, Lead Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Practitioner
In early 2020, life for EMAS staff based at the trust headquarters in Nottingham was nothing out of the ordinary.
While Coronavirus was the hot topic in the office, the virus was still 5,000 miles away and business was continuing as usual.
For Emily Convery, Strategic Contracts Manager, and Helen Hamilton, Lead Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Practitioner, that was all about to change.
Emily said: “I remember I was driving when I heard the news about lockdown and that reality hit when we were told to work from home. Of course, back then we all thought it would be a few weeks.
“At the time it was one of my busiest periods, in the midst of negotiating our new A&E contract, and overnight my job role disappeared as I was freed up to support the response to COVID. The first few weeks I was packing personal protective equipment, delivering it and topping up our vehicles.”
Helen said: “Working in Infection, Prevention and Control, we knew that something serious was happening in February and as we started to prepare for the inevitable, my role rapidly evolved.
“I found myself being taken away from working in our divisions to being based at trust headquarters and working to ensure our crews were safe.”
As the virus took hold across the country, Emily and Helen found themselves at the middle of their biggest test yet; co-ordinating the antibody testing for EMAS staff.
Helen said: “During this time, I found I just didn’t have a personal life and my world became work. The whole world was in crisis and as a team, IPC knew that the impact we were having was an important one.
“I think like most of the staff across EMAS, we had to move quickly to accommodate those immediate changes happening all the time.”
With more and more people with COVID being admitted into hospital each day, the government announced the use of a vaccine to help protect the nation.
Following the success of the antibody programme, Emily found herself in another new role. This time co-ordinating the vast vaccination programme for staff at EMAS.
Emily said: “This was worlds away from my life as a Strategic Contracts Manager and managing a project wasn’t something I had really done until now. However, following the success of the antibody testing, we knew what could be achieved.”
Working closely with Helen and the IPC team, the EMAS vaccination programme began its roll out in January 2021 after an intense few days following announcements from the government, Public Health England and NHS England.
Emily said: “The days leading up to the allocation of the vaccine and the roll out were intense and high pressure. We were informed that we would be getting the vaccine and then literally a couple of days later, we were giving first doses.
“Unlike any of the work I’d previously done during COVID, this was much harder to switch off from. I was constantly aware that things were changing rapidly and in the first month I was never more than 20cm away from my phone.
“My husband was a great support, especially as there were many late nights in front of the laptop and a lot of lost weekends.”
After five months of tireless work, the vaccination programme is now complete with the last vaccinations being given last week and a sense of achievement being felt by both Helen and Emily.
Helen said: “I am so proud to be part of this incredible programme which has provided protection to our staff and it has been great to work with so many amazing people throughout this process.
“We have so many people here at EMAS who have gone above and beyond to ensure this vaccination programme could happen and they truly are admirable.
“I have formed some great relationships during this time with my colleagues and have a firm friend in Emily.”
Emily said: “I have such a proud feeling knowing that I have been part of something historic. It has been great to see how everyone has come together to work and learn as we navigated through the vaccine programme.
“We are so grateful for everyone who has been part of it to ensure the protection of our staff and we would have really struggled without them. Nothing was ever too much trouble. We still have some work to do but I am grateful that our staff are now protected.”