Royal Preston porters have provided "light relief" for patients during the pandemic, says proud boss after St. Paul's service
The head of the portering service at the Royal Preston Hospital has paid tribute to the efforts of his team during the darkest days of the pandemic.
Martin Keeney was speaking after he attended a service of thanksgiving for the NHS at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Monday. He said he had been honoured to be chosen to represent Lancashire Teaching Hospitals at the event, where guests including Prince William and Prime Minister Boris Johnson gathered in recognition of how the health service has tackled the huge challenge posed by Covid.
Martin, who has worked at the Sharoe Green Lane site for 14 years, said he was particularly proud that a support service which usually operates “in the shadows” had been put under the spotlight in acknowledgement of its work throughout the Covid crisis.
“The team did all the hard work - I basically went on behalf of them.
“When Covid kicked in, it really brought everyone together. There was a lot of panic at first because guidance was changing every day, so we were trying our best to manage that and reassure our staff, because everyone was frightened - we didn't know what we were getting into,” Martin recalled.
The role of the trust’s porters during the pandemic has meant they have witnessed first-hand the terrible toll the virus has taken in terms of the lives it has claimed - a trauma whose effects Martin believes will only truly be felt by his colleagues “further down the line”.
However, he takes comfort from the fact that his porters have also played a part in keeping spirits up amongst patients who have often been without visitors because of the restrictions in place to prevent the spread of Covid.
“For those patients to be able to talk to a friendly face is great for them. As a porter, you have got to learn to read the person [whom you are transporting] very quickly - some people are understandably very sombre and don’t want to be talked to.
“But a lot of people haven't seen anybody for a long time and having a trip round the hospital talking to a porter is some light relief. You can generally assess whether someone wants a bit of banter and light-heartedness - people usually love it,” Martin said.
The father-of-four described the two-hour St. Paul's service as “poignant” and said many in the congregation had been reduced to tears by some of the stories relayed.
Martin - who met his wife Rachael, a vascular specialist, at the trust - said that one of the few positives to come out of the last 15 months was the fact that the portering service now works much more closely with other departments at the Royal Preston.
“We have more of an input - they tell us what needs doing and we work it out between us.”