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NHS Lanarkshire chief executive Heather Knox has praised the fortitude of Lanarkshire residents and her colleagues a year on from the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Heather said:

“As we mark the anniversary of COVID-19 arriving in Scotland, my overwhelming impression of the last 12 months is the unceasing dedication of NHS Lanarkshire staff in the face of this unprecedented challenge, coupled with the fantastic support the public has given us by following the guidance to ensure the NHS was never overwhelmed.

“My thoughts also turn to all those families across Lanarkshire and beyond who have suffered the loss of loved-ones, and, of course, we remember the loss of our own member of staff, Kirsty Jones.

“Lanarkshire has been among the areas of Scotland most affected by this horrible virus with nearly 38,000 cases in our health board area to date.

“That number would have been much higher had it not been for the unswerving patience and sacrifice of the community, who saw their NHS change so much in the last year.

“Despite the frustrations undoubtedly felt by many, the people of Lanarkshire have shown endless understanding. They have seen us pause non-urgent planned operations and a range of outpatient appointments. Heart-breaking decisions have had to be made around our visiting arrangements in care homes and our hospitals, which saw so many people unable to be close to their vulnerable and unwell family members and friends.

“I believe those hard choices were the right thing to do to protect us all and I know our staff did their best to accommodate special circumstances such as the sadness of end-of-life moments in a hospital or care home, or the joy of a new life beginning in our maternity department.

“The pandemic has also speeded up our use of technology and we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of GP video consultations through our Near Me service.

“Our staff have been wonderful and I have been amazed every day of the last year to witness their commitment. Many of them have stepped into unfamiliar roles across our acute and community care services, including the difficult environment of the intensive care unit and, most recently, to support the enormous logistical challenge our COVID vaccination programme.

“My colleagues have worked harder than ever before, pushing through tiredness and the emotional toll they’ve faced daily. We have tried to help by working with our staff-side colleagues to ensure a real focus on staff wellbeing over the past year, and made sure that there are plenty of resources to support our staff.

“The public, too, have faced that ongoing emotional challenge and we have promoted local and national mental health support services to ensure everyone knows that expert help is available if they’re feeling overwhelmed.

“I hope we’re all starting to feel more optimistic now that the vaccination programme is beginning to show a positive effect and we’re seeing the cautious return of care home visiting. I’m heartened to see the number of patient being treated for COVID reducing significantly in our hospitals. This week (w/b 8 Mar) we have fewer than 100 patients across our three acute sites – down from around 350 in mid-January.

“But we’re not out of the woods yet – our intensive care units are still under increased pressure, for example. So it’s vital that we all continue to follow the FACTS* guidance to protect our NHS.

“In conclusion, I’d like to say a huge thank you to all of the Lanarkshire public and all of my magnificent colleagues, and reiterate the important message – stick with it, Lanarkshire!”

*FACTS

F – face covering

A – avoid crowded places

C – clean hands and surfaces regularly

T – two metres distance from other people

S – self-isolate and book a test if you have covid-19 symptoms (new continuous cough, fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste)

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