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As this year's Occupational Health & Wellbeing Awards 2021 are launched, we will over the next four months be revisiting our amazing 2020 winners. First up is the team at Swansea Bay University Health Board, who were our first ever double winners, winning both "Best multidisciplinary initiative” and the coveted “Occupational health team of the year (public sector)”.
We have all read about, and been humbled by, the bravery and commitment of frontline NHS staff working on Covid wards and in intensive care during the past 12-18 months.
But, it is only when you speak to NHS occupational health that you get a sense of the pressure – albeit more of a backroom pressure – they were also under, especially in the early days of the pandemic in spring 2020 when the Covid pandemic commenced.
As Paul Dunning, head of staff wellbeing at Swansea Bay University Health Board (SBUHB), explains: “The original request when Covid kicked in was, ‘you need to make occupational health a 24/7 service’. It was a challenging first few weeks because the demand on the service increased dramatically and significantly," he says with studied understatement.
“It is strange to look back because there were at that time no testing centres; we were the initial screening/assessment centre for staff, and staff were phoning up with symptoms – 400-500 calls a day – and we suddenly had this huge backlog. I worked with the executive directors to try and get as much resource into occupational health to help manage some of those early challenges” he adds.
[pullquote] “The original request when Covid kicked in was, ‘you need to make occupational health a 24/7 service’. It was a challenging first few weeks because the demand on the service increased dramatically
Nic Paton is editor of Occupational Health & Wellbeing, within OHW+. One of the country's foremost workplace health journalists, Nic has written for Occupational Health & Wellbeing since 2001, and has edited the magazine since 2018.