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Sailors complete Covid mission helping hospitals across Manchester

22 February 2022
Five weeks of support by sailors to ease the burden on NHS staff in Greater Manchester ends on Friday with praise ringing in their ears.

Four dozen sailors from destroyer HMS Duncan and Portsmouth and Devonport Naval Bases were mobilised as part of Operation Rescript – the military assistance/response to the Covid pandemic.

They focused their efforts in five NHS trusts in Wigan, Bolton, Oldham, Salford and Stockport – collectively responsible for the health of more than 1.4 million people.

The bulk of the Royal Navy personnel have been assisting at hospitals in Wigan and Bolton, the rest working alongside Army colleagues in Oldham, Salford and Stockport.

They’ve been on the wards since January 20, but with Covid numbers falling and winter drawing to a close, the assistance is winding down this week, formally coming to a close on Friday.

The sailors have performed basic tasks and duties – freeing up trained medical staff for pure clinical tasks.

Among the sailors assigned to Wigan’s Royal Albert Edward Infirmary – the largest in the Wrightington, Wigan, and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – is Able Seaman George Stevens, fresh out of training at HMS Collingwood in Fareham, Hampshire.

He and his colleagues have been tasked with numerous jobs around the hospital – jobs which may appear menial such as making beds, serving meals, moving patients around, assisting in the pharmacy (“little bits and pieces allowing nurses to focus on the bigger picture”) – but often also proved extremely rewarding for both the sailors and patients.

We are extremely thankful for the assistance which further enhances the unwavering efforts of all our colleagues to manage the increased pressures on our services.

Silas Nicholls

“We have been making teas – many different teas – which has been very, very entertaining, seeing all the patients and how happy it can make them,” said George.

“My favourite – or to be more accurate the most meaningful part of this deployment has been working with these patients. Many of them have different issues from dementia to cancer and we’re just trying to help them through it, even with the coronavirus pandemic going through.”

Silas Nicholls, Chief Executive of Wrightington, Wigan, and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said the month-long assistance from the sailors was much appreciated by his team.

“This support has assisted us to stabilise the current pressures on staffing and to allow our clinicians to focus on the provision of clinical care as we prepare our sites for full restoration of activity,” he added.

“We are extremely thankful for the assistance which further enhances the unwavering efforts of all our colleagues to manage the increased pressures on our services.”

The RN’s senior officer in the North West, Commodore Phil Waterhouse, is visiting the sailors in Wigan today to thank them for their efforts and present a plaque to hospital staff.

“For a region which sees little in the way of regular sailors and marines on the patch, it has been a pleasure to host the team and relish in their success with them,” said Commodore Waterhouse.

“Full of endeavour, enthusiasm and empathy they have done ‘their bit’ extraordinarily well; the Royal Navy is very proud of their contribution.”

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