Fiona Band, General Manager, General Medicine and Medical Specialties

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital

“I remember our very first planning meeting about Covid-19. There were 13 of us sitting around the table – looking back to that now, and considering the huge amount that we’ve learned since then, we wouldn’t consider having an in-person meeting like that.

“Even at that point, we knew something significant was coming but never did we think we’d have to manage such a rapid avalanche of changes.

“My priority then, and still, is to ensure the infrastructure is in place to reflect the guidance and recommendations coming out from the Government and to ensure the QEUH can continue functioning and delivering top-quality care to all patients, be that Covid or non-Covid.

“The first key change was the complete redesign of the hospital entrance layout to make it as safe as possible for our staff and patients. After that, changes came through thick and fast, with new guidance coming out daily.

“As the numbers of patients being admitted crept up – particularly in the second wave – so too did the number of meetings to discuss capacity and how to divert resources to those services needing it the most.

“We were in totally unchartered territory and still are to an extent, and it is only because of the dedication of absolutely everyone from across sectors and services – working together, listening to each other and helping each other – that we’ve been able to make it through and to get to where we are today.

“I’m thankful to all of them. We have been in a pressure cooker – a real test of the team. But we’re all still here and while it has been the biggest learning curve in all our careers and everyone has faced their own personal Covid-19 impacts, at QEUH and the South Sector we have emerged as a stronger, more organised team.”

Michelle Cannon, HealthCare Support Worker, Maternity Assessment Unit

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital

“We’re a strong team but I’d be lying if I said Covid hasn’t had any impact on us – staff have been tired working extra shifts to cover sickness, workload has increased due to this. There have been phone calls to reassure and offer advice to patients, staff have lost loved ones as well, but we have been there for each other during this and our motto will always remain with us: tough times don’t last, tough teams do.

“Covid doesn’t stop babies being born. Throughout, we’ve been all about continuing to deliver a high standard of care and compassion and understanding expectant mums’ needs, worries and anxiousness and, at times, just being a listening ear. Communication was, and still is, everything.

“Personally I think the hardest part for myself and colleagues were the struggles we faced outside work with not seeing family and friends. That meant our colleagues turned into family, in a sense. It made us even more caring in our approach to supporting women who had to attend alone and offer the reassurance they needed. Adjusting to wearing masks especially as I wear glasses and them steaming up but totally used to it now.

“It’s okay to admit when you’re tired, scared, having a wobble and stressed and not to suffer in silence. We’re all in this together. I’ve had my moments missing my family and friends and simple things like cuddles, but thank goodness for FaceTime and Zoom.

“I’m also helping in the vaccination clinic. What really sticks out to me is how grateful everyone is to be getting their vaccine. This one gentleman in particular had been shielding and not been out in so long and he said it’s good to be out and how he’s missed just having someone to talk to. To be part of this positive change and hopefully on the way to some sort of ‘normality’ made me feel very humble.

“I can’t wait for the day I can see people smile again without a mask as I’m a really smiley person and it’s infectious and it’s definitely something at times that brightens someone’s day – plus it costs nothing.”

Dr Ben Reynolds, Paediatric Nephrologist

Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow

“When the Covid pandemic hit, there were many uncertainties about what it meant for our transplant patients. This was new territory for everyone. Is a kidney transplant safe? Will the immune drugs after transplant cause more serious illness from Covid? Are children more or less affected?

“Two days before lockdown, we made the very difficult decision to cancel all of our planned transplants (from living donors) as we just did not know what we would be dealing with. We were uncertain what to do with patients on the waiting list for kidneys and decided we would think about each one, case by case, if they got an offer.

“Fast forward two months and it was looking like Covid was not a big problem for children – unlike adults with kidney failure, who were being very seriously affected. Our children were still having all the usual dialysis problems, though. Many kidney units stopped doing transplants altogether but we decided to keep our patients on the list as, on balance, we thought the risks of Covid and transplant in children were not as bad as staying on dialysis.

“Our first transplant in the pandemic was full of unknowns. How long to shield after the transplant? What might happen if our patient got Covid so soon after a transplant? How would everyone feel if things did not go well?

“Thankfully our first pandemic transplant was a tremendous success and turned around the life of the patient previously on dialysis. Inspired, we were able to transplant all of our patients on the waiting list between May and August and had no children waiting for a kidney for the first time in many years. 2020 turned into one of our busiest transplant years for children in a decade.”

Rachel Wylie, Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist, Pain Management Service

New Victoria Hospital

“With staff going to help acute services in the early days and the cancellation of outpatient activity, this was in stark contrast to what was normal for our service. Realising that our patients were not receiving the support they would normally have really unsettled and concerned me, and balancing the demands of the ever-changing landscape both in a professional and personal sense was tiring.

“As some of us returned to the service to begin remobilisation, facing the prospect of digital delivery of patient care, both on an individual basis and for our patient groups, was bewildering. We learnt a lot about digital platforms, the ins and outs of screen sharing, facilitating group dynamics, “You’re on mute” and suffering from square eyes!

We have adapted and reinvented our treatment approaches to account for screen time and digital interaction, but ensuring our shared value of person-centred and quality of care has remained at the forefront. We have now restarted the clinical activity we initially stopped, which is a mark of the huge commitment, time and effort the team has dedicated to supporting and caring for the patients who access our service. As a result, our patients are now waiting even less time than they did pre-pandemic, which is remarkable.

“In the face of this dreadful virus, we were not having to deal with the distressing and ever-changing reality of acute patient care, but we did have to tackle the hidden burden of the pandemic – people who had their care stopped abruptly. These people felt alone and often abandoned, struggling to manage their complex pain without support, feeling unworthy of healthcare knowing there were so many others who needed urgent input.

“In a new virtual world of video consultations, we were able to provide patient care in people’s homes in a safe and effective way. We were able to have meaningful conversations about concerns, expectations and what really mattered. Patients no longer felt isolated, they were being ‘heard’ again. We became confident that, despite not seeing people face to face, we could continue with treatment plans and make positive change. Virtual care really suited some of our patients who would have struggled to engage in the past. Many patients would still opt for face-to-face care but we have learnt that offering a blended approach can cater for all our patients’ requirements.

“People working across health and social care have demonstrated tremendous courage, adaptability and hope in the face of adversity, rising to the challenge of providing best care for people who access services.

“I have been overwhelmed by our team spirit and I refer to not just the team I am clinically part of, but the wider NHS team. How we looked out for and supported each other when it mattered most was exceptional.”

Carla Forte, Lead Clinical Pharmacist for Cancer Services

The Beatson

“The driving force behind everything we did in the pandemic is the fact that all of our patients are immuno-compromised. At the start we did not know how this would affect them compared to the general population.

“The Beatson is the West of Scotland Cancer Centre – for everyone with cancer in four health boards and we are also the national centre for some rarer cancers.

“What we had to work out was how we could continue to deliver cancer care – and cancer services did continue throughout – in a different way to avoid everyone having to come to the Beatson.

“Very quickly we had to come up with a plan. Lots of anti-cancer medicines are now oral so we set about establishing a home delivery service – something that sounds very simple but is a very complex process involving many different staff groups.

“Now, rather than coming to us, patients on oral anti-cancer medicines are assessed either by video link or on the phone and their medication is then delivered to their home. We managed to set this up within the first three to four weeks of the pandemic.

“It’s been a huge team effort from the consultants right through to our delivery drivers. Many people who were not used to dealing directly with patients, such as pharmacy admin staff, now do every day. And do it well. It was a huge, steep learning curve for everyone but they embraced it and it works.

“Our patients love it. They feel much safer at home and they now know when their medicines are being delivered – all without leaving home. It really has been a win-win for everyone and I am very proud of how we responded.”

Lisa Miller, Clinical Photographer

AT Medical Illustration Services


“Our team of clinical photographers have had access across NHSGGC’s hospitals that no-one else has had.

“The clinical work we do has never been more important and challenging. Doctors cannot always attend the wards so we photograph patients to show their condition; these need to be standardised and accurate as they are used for remote diagnosis.

“At times we’ve had to wear full PPE, in theatre and ICU, meaning we’ve had to adapt our techniques for focusing and framing the images.

“Alongside the clinical work I’ve been able to work on my PR and portraiture photography skills. I get a lot of waves walking down the corridor now after meeting so many colleagues!

“Capturing images of patients leaving the hospital after battling Covid-19, the Clap for Carers movement and Project Wingman were just a few of the jobs the team were involved in. One of my photographs of a nurse holding a young patient was chosen as part of the Hold Still National Portrait Gallery exhibition.

“It’s been important to document this past year, and photography is the best way to do this. I’m really proud of the work we have done.”

Erin Drane, Advanced Critical Care Practitioner, Intensive Care Unit

Glasgow Royal Infirmary

“I have worked in intensive care for 13 years, 10 of those as a bedside nurse. I realised this was unlike anything else we had seen before when I came onto shift and there was suddenly four ICU units created to cope with the rapid influx of Covid patients. I was in charge of a theatre recovery unit that had been quickly turned into an eight-bedded ICU.

“We were all in full PPE, in a hot basement area with no windows; it was frightening and very disorientating for staff and patients. I would describe it as being as close to wartime medicine as I will ever see, an unfamiliar environment, quickly gathering together ventilators and other equipment needed for all these new patients being admitted rapidly.

“In ICU we pride ourselves on providing excellent patient care, taking our time with each patient, eye care, mouth care, making sure they are as comfortable as possible. This was completely different; the patients we were looking after were so unwell and so unstable it became about just trying to keep them alive.

“Holding an iPad up to a patient’s face or holding a telephone to their ear as their families say goodbye at end of life is something we’ve all struggled with and a memory that will stay with us forever. We’ve even lost colleagues, some who have died in the unit – porters, domestics and nurses – it’s been absolutely heartbreaking.

“One thing that sticks in my mind was when a staff member died. One of our colleagues held his hand while he passed away and the staff on shift lined the corridor in a guard of honour as he was taken to the mortuary.

“This last year has been such a tough time for everyone in the hospital, especially for the patients and their families. In ICU we are very much still in the thick of it, we are still busy with Covid patients and becoming increasingly busier with non-Covid patients.

“Self-care has never been so important. I think, as nurses, we have this mentality of ‘Just keep going, we will just keep working no matter what’. Patients become the priority and we stop thinking about our mental health – there’s always a risk of burnout.

“We really are a family here at the GRI – nurses, doctors, porters, domestic staff, admin, lab technicians, everyone has gone above and beyond to deliver the best of care in the worst of times. We’ve cried, we’ve laughed, we’ve hugged in PPE after the toughest shifts, but we’ve all got through it together. I’ve always been proud of our NHS but the past year has made me extremely proud to be part of such an amazing team.

“It’s been a year we will never forget, with patients we will always remember.”

Garry Hume, Clinical Support Worker

Glasgow Dental Hospital & School

“Right from the beginning, life really changed for me. I remember going into work and thinking, ‘Will I catch Covid today?’

“I sometimes struggle with my mental health, so lockdown has been tough. But I’ve moved in with my girlfriend Jay and in July we got engaged. It’s really something to look forward to.

“The people I work with are brilliant. I’m nearly the only guy on my floor and I sometimes tease Jay about it, but really, they’re fantastic. It would be so difficult without them. I was trained to fit FFP3 face masks, which are so important in the dental hospital. We’re also responsible for whole new levels of cleaning and that’s a huge focus of my job. It’s been a lot of work but it’s great to feel like I’m helping keep people safe. I just can’t wait until things are eased – going out for a meal with Jay and watching the world go by. Restaurant, ice cold Bud, sorted! It’s the little things we take for granted, and it’s those we miss when they’re not there.”

Lorna Halliday, Senior Charge Nurse

Outpatient Clinics, Stobhill Hospital

“When Covid came it was a huge change for us. Half of our staff were redeployed to the wards but we still had to come up with a way of making sure our patients and staff were safe. During the first wave, we were still seeing emergency patients and urgent cases, like referrals for cancer.

“Before, in Outpatients, we would have 26 chairs together in a waiting room. That’s been reduced to six, to make sure there’s the required distance between people. I was out with my two metre piece of string, making sure everything was safe. Now we’ve got one-way systems in place and I think patients are reassured when they come in, they see the marshals in PPE, the physical distancing and improved pathways.

“You can’t get away from the fact that people are really anxious right now. We sometimes need people to attend clinics on their own and that’s hard. It can lead to folk getting upset and we need to work with people to de-escalate any issues that arise. It might just be asking someone to go and wait in their car and telling them we’ll call them when their loved one is done.

“Our teams have been brilliant, we have all adapted quickly and our IT and e-health teams worked hard to allow us to set up video calls and phone consultations which have radically changed how we do things – and that’s brought some improvements.

“We know the waiting lists are longer because of Covid and it’s not a case of just switching things back on and returning to normal. Staff are exhausted – we have all adapted really quickly, but there’s no break from Covid. You deal with it at work and it’s there when you get home.

“We’ve had some staff who have come back from the wards who have been quite traumatised by what they’ve seen. It will take a while for some of them to recover from that. I really hope the vaccination programme is successful and it protects as many people as possible. But when things go back to normal, we will make sure that everything we have learned goes back into improving how care is delivered within Outpatients.”

Dr Abigail Gunn, Lead Medical Consultant

Inverclyde Royal Hospital

“Inverclyde was the first in Scotland to be majorly affected by Covid-19, with Inverclyde Royal Hospital effectively as Ground Zero. Our team had to respond rapidly and make changes to protect patients and staff against a host of unknowns. This pandemic has shown just how capable the NHS and staff are of changes. We created new services at incredibly short notice and responded to patients’ needs.

“There is not one family in our community who hasn’t been affected in some way. It’s been incredibly challenging professionally and personally too.

“Covid is going to be around for a while longer. We need to continue to provide the best protection for patients and staff. When this starts to settle and when staff have started to recover from the fatigue and burnout, I know the energy for quality and improvement will remain. We need to keep improving our services and that would be a fitting legacy for some of the patients we have lost.”

Ted Mullen, Head of Service, Medical Equipment Management

Department of Clinical Physics and Bioengineering

“It was February 2020 – for me that’s when life changed. I was on holiday with my wife in Tenerife and I’d just told my manager I was planning to retire, on my birthday on 10 March, 2021.

“While we were there, news broke of an Italian tourist here testing positive and causing an entire hotel to go into lockdown. By the time we returned to Scotland, the whole pandemic issue was becoming very real.

“Back at work, there was a major concern there would not be enough intensive care unit ventilators for the anticipated need. They were in high demand worldwide and supply was short, so the first big contribution of my team of clinical engineers was to convert the anaesthetic machines, normally used in operating theatres, for use as ICU ventilators.

“The team worked tirelessly, putting in many additional hours, but it was worth it when we reached a number of conversions that the clinicians felt they would need.

“At the same time, I was asked to help out with the national response by the Scottish Government’s new medical devices and legislation team. This involved working with people from different disciplines all across NHS Scotland to ensure procurement of the devices we needed and that they went to the right places. I’ll be seconded there until June 2022 as the work resulting from Covid-19 is still not finished.

“It’s hard to describe the year as so much has happened. So much good and innovative work has been done by a great team of dedicated staff that I couldn’t do their efforts justice in a few lines.

“From a personal perspective, it has been a strange year. I never dreamed of a change of career at my age – 59 – and certainly not working for the Scottish Government. I have had to put retirement off till 2022 but I’m very happy to see the work through to completion … and I’m hoping holidays in Tenerife come back soon!”

Kris Burt, Associate Practitioner

West Regional Testing Hub, Glasgow

“I started here in October, and it’s the best job I’ve ever had. It’s my first job in a clinical lab and this is what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve been out of uni for four or five years and for most of that time I’ve been working in Tesco. I was there at the beginning of the pandemic and I remember the panic-buying, the worry of the staff.

“It’s strange but this job feels like I’ve swapped one frontline of the pandemic for another. Being here feels really special – I feel like I’m doing something that matters, a job that really helps people.

“The people here are fantastic. So many of us are in a lab for the first time, and even when the workload stacks up and the pressure is on, we still manage to work for each other. The team spirit is amazing.

“Outside work, I’ve not really been touched by Covid. My girlfriend’s dad had it but we haven’t suffered the way others have. That really focuses my mind when I come here – I want to do the best I can. I feel very lucky.”

David Shannon, Laundry Assistant,

NHSGGC, Hillington

“I work at the board’s laundry where we clean patients’ sheets and towels, as well as scrubs for staff.

“I’ve had to be very careful as my son, who is 14, has been shielding at home; everything’s changed. I’m now used to stripping at the front door! It all comes off and there’s always a towel waiting for me before I jump in the shower.

“It’s all a bit mad but it’s what we need to do to stay safe.

“The biggest change for us has been our PPE. It’s a hot job at the best of times as we are constantly moving, sorting and lifting. We now need to wear long sleeves, a mask, goggles, gloves, overalls and our boots. It does get really hot but we get ‘heat breaks’ and we have access to water all the time.

“I am glad I’ve been working for the NHS during this. It takes everyone to make the whole big team work. Patients need doctors and need clean sheets too!”

Joanne Bennett, Senior Charge Nurse, COVID HDU
Glasgow Royal Infirmary

“I remember an eerie calmness in the hospital in the weeks coming into the pandemic. There was a lot of media stories from all over the world and the threat to our country, our population became reality. There was an adrenaline-fuelled anxiety with what was to come. 
“It was like waiting for the tsunami to hit, watching the sea go out and waiting for it to crash in. Staff had lots of questions and there was a huge uncertainty.
“I remember a shift where we were at full capacity. I vividly remember one of the consultants that day saying to me, ‘This is it’. It will always remain in my mind as the turning point where our fears became a reality. 
“The hardest part for us is probably seeing so many people being affected by this virus, not having families with them at their most crucial time, and the PPE affecting communication. 
“For the patients, we all look the same. It quickly became clear that this virus was a threat to us all – we had husbands and wives, nurses and doctors, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters in the unit. 
“We cared for our own doctors, nurses and staff members, not knowing if they were going to survive.
“I found it really hard seeing my team exhausted, upset and feeling helpless at times. It is a physical struggle to wear the PPE for a prolonged length of time but the emotional burden and fear the staff carried for their patients, their families, each other, is heavy. They gave everything on each 
“It is a year I will never forget. The most important thing I will take from this is the bravery, skill, determination and kindness that I witnessed every day by both patients and staff. We will always need each other. These people will remain in my heart forever.”

Tomorrow: More NHS lockdown heroes