Meet our COVID-19 Rapid Response Team

Published: 20 May 2020

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The NHS is no stranger to working in crisis; rising to unique challenges in fast paced environments and ever changing landscapes, however never before in the history of our NHS have we had to rise to an emergency quite like this.

Like so many NHS Trusts, Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust have demonstrated incredible adaptability, responsiveness and leadership in their response to this global pandemic however as a multi-speciality service provider.

Patient safety is always at the heart of what we do, so it was important that we make immediate plans as to how we would keep our mental health and learning disability patients safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. This included how we would ensure that they would continue to receive the physical and mental health care they need should they develop suspected or confirmed COVID-19.  

Part of our emergency response to the COVID-19 outbreak was the formation of a Rapid Response COVID Team (RRCT). The RRCT, comprising of Registered Nurses, Emergency Care Practitioners, Paramedics and Advanced Nurse Practitioners, have found new ways to work with and alongside their mental health and learning disability colleagues, to ensure our patients receive the very best care in an appropriate health care setting that meets both the physical and mental health needs of the individual.

We recently spoke with Sadie Millington, Quality Standards Practice Development Nurse and Rapid Response Covid Team leader, who told us all about the team, how they have responded to the crisis and what it’s like to work on the front line.

What is the core aim of the COVID-19 rapid response team?

The core function of the team is to provide support to our colleagues across the mental health and learning disability inpatient units and residential care facilities. This can be direct support from the team or remote support through our triage and information service. We are based at one location, which enables us to support the cohort wards - 24 designated inpatient beds for patients who have suspected or confirmed cases of COVID.

The team has a breadth of skills and experience which has enabled us to work together to provide a unique service, delivering active treatment such as oxygen therapy, intravenous fluid/medication to end of life care and symptom management.

Whilst the team are all registered professionals and work in a variety of professional roles within the organisation, prior to joining the RRCT many were not working in clinical settings.  It has been immensely rewarding to be involved at the front line doing the jobs we were trained to do and are so passionate about and feeling like we can make a difference to the lives of our patients.


What role is the team playing in the COVID response? 

Although specialists in their own right, our colleagues within our mental health and learning disability units are unable to deliver some of the specialist care which patients with COVID-19 require. We have been able to work alongside our colleagues to ensure this care is delivered safely.

The RRCT has played a supportive and coaching role, which has helped many of our mental health and learning disability staff across the units to develop and grow in confidence when caring for patients requiring additional monitoring or physical health interventions. Staff are appropriately managing and escalating deteriorating patients and are able to assess risk in line with the clinical pathways in relation to COVID-19.

We have all needed to adapt our ways of working – it’s all been a huge learning curve and one I’m proud to be a part of. We are constantly developing our skills every day. I am learning from my mental health and learning disability colleagues about some of the unique challenges in caring for people with complex mental health and behavioural problems. We are all learning from each other.


How has being part of this team impacted your work?

Well, I’ve gone from working as the Quality Standards Practice Development Nurse in the Quality Governance and Patient Safety Team at Trust Headquarters, to managing and supporting a new and emerging team. We have been writing standard operational procedures, clinical pathways and training packages. The volume of work that has been required to get this off the ground has been staggering and everyone involved has been working at pace. Now this is becoming the new norm and we are beginning to settle into this new way of being.

I have to say, it has been a privilege to get back to providing hands-on nursing care. Working with patients is a true joy and it is made all the more easier when you work with a great team. The staff have been exceptional and welcomed the RRCT as part of their extended team during these challenging times and it’s a wonderful experience.


How have you experienced the matter of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?

There were initially a few teething problems whilst systems and processes were set up nationally, however, I have been impressed by our local response and ease of access to the PPE supplies. The RRCT and cohort wards have always had access to recommended PPE. I am very grateful that our team has always had whatever we have needed.

As a team we feel extremely supported by Infection Prevention and Control team who have been on hand throughout this, ensuring staff have the correct skills, knowledge and understanding to keep themselves and their patients safe. The IPC team have been phenomenal during this time, I couldn’t thank them enough.


What has been an important aspect of this experience for you?

Learning and growing from each other’s knowledge and skills. Every day we are teaching each other new things; we are all from different backgrounds, each bringing something unique and valuable to the table.

I am so proud of the RRCT team. Nothing is ever too much for them, everyone wants to help and they are all working above and beyond. They’re not only generous with their time, but with their energy and compassion too. Even when my colleagues are off duty, I can turn to them for advice and support at any time and vice versa. At times, we cry and have an emotional wobble but the camaraderie gets us back on track and I can honestly say we laugh far more than we cry.


What helps you along the way?

Humour gets us by. We have quite a lot of banter within the team. It stops us taking everything too seriously. When you are working with the likes of John Sands and Mark Preston, dull moments are few and far between.

I must also say that we have had amazing support from the senior management within the Nursing Directorate and our Executive Team. They have only ever been a phone call away. They have provided leadership, direction, support and advice throughout. Thank you.


What would you say you have learned so far, from this experience?

I think what I have learned is that we cannot go back to our old ways of working. This experience has impacted everyone in so many different ways. People coming together and supporting one another at this time has been absolutely imperative to the team’s success. On a broader level, I think coming out of this, what we will take away is how important it is to work with and alongside our colleagues.

Working in this way not only broadens our skillsets but it also allows us to truly understand the challenges faced by those working in clinical environments and how we can work together, in terms of practice development and learning. I am sure this experience, despite being very challenging and at times very sad, will have a positive impact for a long time to come.

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