Published on: 5 March 2021

In March 2020, almost 200 members of staff at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust were redeployed to different roles to support the Trust in the fight against COVID-19.

Lauran Binks was one such staff member who volunteered to assist on the frontline and almost a year later feels so inspired by the experience that she has decided to make the move permanent.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, Lauran, 33, was working as a Physiotherapy Assistant at Sunderland Children’s Centre, but at the start of the first wave was redeployed to the Acute Stroke Unit to support in the safe care of patients who were admitted after having a stroke.

Lauran said: “I really wanted to help wherever I could, so I volunteered for redeployment while services at the Children’s Centre were temporarily postponed due to the pandemic.

“Working on E58 has been amazing. It’s been challenging and there hasn’t been a single day on this ward that has been easy. That being said, every single member of staff has smiled and gone above and beyond for our patients and their families.

“They really are an inspirational team demonstrating true care and compassion. I can honestly hand on heart say that I never worked with such amazing people.”

During the first wave of the pandemic, many non-urgent services were temporarily paused to support the sudden demand on the NHS. This allowed many Trust staff to be redeployed and support where they were most needed at a time of increased pressure.

 These clinical and non-clinical staff worked in a range of roles from liaising with families when visiting was suspended, supporting wards and critical care to manning the staff COVID-19 advice line and providing staff testing. Working in different areas has given healthcare workers like Lauran an opportunity to learn new skills and develop in other specialist areas.

Despite the challenges that COVID-19 brought, Lauran enjoyed her redeployment so much that she decided to make the move permanent. She is now working at a Health Care Assistant at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

As a Health Care Assistant, Lauran’s role involves; observing, monitoring and recording patients' conditions, assisting with clinical duties and overall reassurance, comfort and safety.

Lauran has always wanted to work in healthcare, and now plans to complete her training to become a Registered Nurse with support from the Trust. She said: “My daughter has been going to physio from birth at the Children’s Centre and the work they did always amazed me. So when a job came up, I thought, I’m going to give it a try - as I knew I would love it. It was also the perfect opportunity to see if I would enjoy working in a healthcare setting and I certainly did.

“I have always wanted to do this but never thought that I was good enough. During my redeployment working on the ward, seeing staff work and talking to them about their roles really made me believe in myself and made me consider changing careers even more.”

Melanie Johnson, Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals, said: “Throughout this pandemic many of our staff have found themselves in different areas and roles, supporting the Trust in our response to COVID-19.

“At the height of the pandemic we were able to increase our staffing capacity in key areas by redeploying staff from various departments across the Trust. These staff were sent where they were most needed to support their colleagues and to plug any staffing gaps across our organisation. That could be supporting on the wards, in critical care, COVID swabbing, fit testing or on our staff COVID helpline.

“Many staff, like Lauran, were able to enhance their skills even further and it’s fantastic to see that she is now taking a nursing career path.

“It has been an incredibly challenging year and I’d like to thank everyone for their incredible versatility, flexibility and their willingness to help wherever needed.”