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Nurses don't let Storm Desmond defeat them

Nursing staff win praise for maintaining services in flood-hit areas

NHS leaders have praised nurses in flood-hit areas of England, Scotland and Wales for keeping services going in recent days.

A rescue team helps to evacuate people from their homes after Storm Desmond caused flooding on December 6, 2015 in Carlisle. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

Floods that wreaked havoc with healthcare services in north west England, and parts of Scotland and Wales over the weekend are continuing to cause disruption today.

In some areas, almost a month’s-worth of rain fell in a few hours. Many roads and bridges became impassable due to rising water levels caused by the effects of Storm Desmond.

One of the worst hit providers was North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust. Cumberland Infirmary has been running on generators and is currently only accessible via the city’s bypass.

NHS England North (Cumbria and North East) interim medical director Craig Melrose said: ‘We’ve been really grateful for all the staff who have come in and volunteered to do extra shifts.

‘That’s definitely made a big difference to services they’ve been able to deliver to patients.’

Dr Melrose said local NHS services had taken the decision to cancel some planned operations and non-urgent procedures in light of a major incident being declared.

Former Nursing Standard columnist Stephen Wright lives in Mungrisdale in the Lake District and described the scene as devastating.

He said: ‘The news does not even begin to convey the sense of what is really going on here, it’s impossible to describe.

‘I know there have been appeals at hospitals for staff who aren’t meant to be working to come in, but mostly everyone is just hunkering down and making the best they can of things.

‘The roads are blocked, the bridges are down, but it is so good to see local people checking on each other and helping where they can.’

Tales of dedication have been attracting attention on Twitter, with stories including a nurse in Cumbria walking miles for their shift because the roads were blocked.

North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust chief operating officer Helen Ray tweeted to say: ‘An amazing response from our staff this weekend despite many of them having to deal with flooding at home #proud.’

In the Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group area most GP surgeries were due to be opened as normal but staff are being advised not to travel for meetings.

Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said it has managed to maintain staffing levels in all community hospitals and mental health inpatient units but was only running essential services today with patients prioritised according to need.

A spokesperson said: ‘We are advising staff to come into work as normal as long as they are able and it is safe for them to do so.

‘We are very grateful to our staff who are letting us know if they are able to offer extra help or if they have been affected. This is helping the co-ordinated response as all agencies continue to make sure people are safe.’

All routine outpatient appointments at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Westmorland General Hospital and the Queen Victoria Hospital in Morecambe have been cancelled today.

All staff are being told to advise their line managers as soon as possible if they are unable to come to work.

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