Pictured L-R: UNISON steward Toni Parker, Branch Secretary Debbie Miles, with members of the switchboard team at East Surrey Hospital
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted all the work that the frontline staff of the NHS and other key workers undertake. But if it wasn’t for the efforts and dedication of ‘behind the scenes’ departments such as the post room and switchboard, many hospitals wouldn’t run as effectively as they do. These departments may be small but they are mighty, often working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The switchboard at East Surrey Hospital can take in excess of 5000 calls a day. As the first port of call for all general enquiries, the highly skilled team are often on the receiving end of stressful and distressing calls. This has never been more apparent than now.
We spoke to Toni Parker, a UNISON Steward in the team.
“Having 100% UNISON membership in our department, and myself as active steward has certainly helped. We have been able to implement our own health & safety measures within the department, which has been well supported by management. This all goes towards the department feeling as safe as we can be in these uncertain times.
Some days we are sad, but the team are glad we’ve been able to help in this crisis. It’s the closeness of the team and their spirit that keeps us coming back day after day. Supporting each other, laughing and sometimes crying together.”
During the crisis, the branch (Surrey and Sussex Healthcare) has been able to work well with the employer, negotiating redeployments and access to PPE, and has recruited three new stewards.
The team had a message to all UNISON members:
“We are proving that together we are stronger and with our strength, resilience and good humour, we will get through this. Please keep safe.”
Are you a key worker with a story to share about what’s happening in your workplace in the fight against Covid-19? Then we want to hear from you so we can celebrate you, our heroes, and everything you’re doing.