Welcome to winter 2022/23 at the Royal Free London (RFL), where staff are experiencing some of the most extraordinary pressures on services in our history.
At the RFL we treat over one million patients every year. Now we’re seeing record attendances at our emergency departments (EDs) and urgent treatment centres, with 1,000 more visits to our EDs every month compared to before the pandemic.
As colleagues continue to demonstrate incredible commitment to our patients, we hear from some of the staff who are doing their very best for patients during the festive season and beyond.
Julie Moxom (pictured centre) is a discharge flow coordinator who has worked at the trust for 15 years. Julie worked at Chase Farm Hospital before moving to Barnet Hospital where she is now based.
"My role focuses on facilitating safe discharges and I enjoy the challenges that come with this. It’s a special feeling helping patients get home. Throughout the day, we keep the site team updated on our discharges to keep the flow of patients moving through the hospital.
“Communication is important, and we always stay in contact with patients and their families. I work closely with the other flow coordinators, as well as social services, complex team, care agencies, transport teams, and other colleagues such as nurses, doctors, therapists, and pharmacists. The list goes on!
“I’m mainly based on wards that treat older patients. We know that not everybody has a family at home, and it can be a lonely time. We make sure that there’s a nice festive spirit here on Juniper Ward and that patients leave with food parcels, a plan in place and a package of care if this is needed.”
Dr Devesh Shahmis (pictured on the left with colleagues) a consultant specialising in elderly care based at Barnet Hospital.
“We help to bring our elderly patients from ED to a same-day emergency care setting. We can then assess them and safely send them home with an appointment to see us again. This process is supported by a multi-disciplinary team, including pharmacists and allied health professionals who help us deliver the complex care our patients need.
“We’re getting better at working with community services so adaptations can be put in place in patients’ homes in anything from 24 to 72 hours. Of course, some elderly patients do need to be in hospital, but many don’t.
“What keeps me going is the amazing professionals I work with. Everyone here is focused on providing the best care we can.”
Gerry Foster has worked at the Royal Free Hospital for nine years as a porter.
“The best piece of advice I have ever had when starting my job was to ‘treat every patient like a member your family’ and I think this is even more important at this time of year, which can feel overwhelming for many. Our role includes ensuring patients are where they need to be. This could involve taking them to surgery, to a ward or to a CT scan. You can get to know patients well and good communication is key. We’re a familiar face in a busy, often stressful environment.
“As winter pressures ramp up and our admissions increase, there are more patients to transport around the building and we play a key role in keeping our hospitals moving. As a porter, you get to work with so many different teams across the trust, and you see the most remarkable things. It’s heart-warming to recognise patients who have recovered and are heading home."
Kweku Sekyi (pictured third from left) is a staff nurse in the Royal Free Hospital adult assessment unit (AAU) and joined the RFL in March 2022.
“This is my first winter working at the trust, and it definitely feels busy and fast-paced. In my role, I spend a lot of the day checking patients’ blood pressure, temperature, heart rate and medication.
“We’re a close-knit team in the AAU and I work closely with other nurses, healthcare assistants, domestic staff, and discharge coordinators. I help to assess whether patients need to be admitted to another ward, or if they can be safely discharged home with a package of care in place. One thing I like most about my role is speaking to patients and knowing that people are being looked after – particularly during this busy period of the year.”
Lauren Evans (pictured right) is a dietitian in the Royal Free Hospital, who has worked at the trust for nearly three years. Emily Kimber (pictured left) respiratory physiotherapist, also works in the Royal Free Hospital ICU.
Lauren: “My role is to make sure patients receive appropriate and adequate nutrition in ICU. In the winter, the demand affects us: there are more unwell patients and staff sickness, which means we’re at lower staffing levels. We just have to carry on and prioritise as best as possible. We see a huge variety of different conditions and they always present different challenges. It’s rewarding for us.”
Emily: “I work on rehabilitation and respiratory care. It’s difficult in ICU during winter as a lot of patients are very unwell and need to be seen daily. We have therapy assistants who look at rehabilitation so that we can focus on the respiratory care. Because we see patients from ICU to the wards, we can support a safe discharge as early as possible. We can see them go from being seriously unwell to hopefully walking out of hospital.”