Perhaps the most uplifting memory of the COVID-19 pandemic were the rounds of applause that sound-tracked streets up and down the country every Thursday night, as communities acknowledged the incredible dedication of our healthcare workers.
One of those was Hoylake resident Viv Harrison, who had been enjoying retirement before COVID-19 came along. When she realised the scale of the challenge facing the country, she re-registered as a nurse especially to help support the response to the virus.
Viv said: “Even though I was retired, I didn’t just want to sit back, I wanted to help”.
She was assigned to work at Bidston Covid Satellite testing site which opened in early May and was the first testing facility in Wirral, initially set up to prioritise key workers.
The site was staffed by Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust workers, comprising mainly of people from the Dental and 0-19 Health and Wellbeing Service teams. Student nurses also worked at the site for three months and security was provided by former Tranmere Rovers FC stewards. Viv managed the testing site alongside her colleague Noel Murphy, also a registered nurse.
“For the first few months we saw 45 to 80 people a day” said Viv. “However from September the numbers increased massively and we were having up to 330 people attending.
“The team worked with such enthusiasm and professionalism” explains Viv. “Many people who visited us to get a test were anxious but even from behind a mask, a smile from the eyes can be very reassuring. The test is very simple and comprises of just a quick swab. The whole process takes only about 15 minutes.”
Once the swabs have been completed they are transported by a courier to a laboratory in Belfast. The increase in demand has led to some longer waits for results for some but the majority of people receive their test results within 72 hours.
Toni Shepherd, Divisional Manager for the Integrated Children’s Division at Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “The staff have worked in almost every possible weather and have always done so with a smile on their face. They have recently managed a massive increase in demand for swabs for symptomatic key workers and have come up with excellent ways of doing this. I can’t thank them enough.”
To help staff from the Community Trust celebrate their final day at Bidston’s testing site, Divyesh Patel from Tower Stores in New Brighton dropped off free meals by way of thanks. The shop-owner, who recently became one of the faces of Wirral Council’s new High Street Hero campaign, said: “The team worked tirelessly and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. This was just a small token of appreciation for their amazing services in such a challenging time.” Earlier in lockdown Divyesh and his family at Tower Stores provided 1,700 free meals to key workers in Wirral.
For Viv, her retirement will have to wait for a while yet. She is currently undertaking flu immunisation e-learning and will be part of a team offering clinic sessions to NHS staff.
“It is sad to leave the Bidston testing team as we have all formed a strong bond” said Viv. "But we've all got new challenges ahead. I'm confident with the spirit and dedication I've witnessed first-hand, we can beat this virus."
The Bidston Covid Satellite testing site remains open and is now operated by an external provider. There are also testing sites in Birkenhead, Bebington and Liscard as well as the mobile testing unit providing additional capacity each week. If you become unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature or experience a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell, you must self-isolate and get a COVID-19 test.
More information about testing in Wirral and how to book is available at www.wirral.gov.uk/test