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'It really does bring it home to you how amazing, dedicated and selfless people are'

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  • This is the second of our special reports based on interviews with nurses who treated patients caught up in the terror attack on the Manchester Arena
  • Further detailed reports looking at the experiences of nurses in emergency medicine and theatres will be published in the days to come
  • Don’t miss our overall special report: Manchester nurses showed ‘professionalism, empathy and compassion’, which was published on Monday

Directors of nursing plan for a major incident but hope it will never happen.

Nursing Times spoke to nursing directors from two of the six hospital trusts that took casualties after the terror attack at the Manchester Arena on 22 May.

Here they describe their experiences in their own words, focusing on preparation and planning, how their teams responded, and the lessons and aftermath.

“This really does bring it home to you how amazing, dedicated and selfless these people are”

Mandy Bailey

Chief nurse Mandy Bailey, from University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust, was at home when she got the call to say there had been an explosion and a major incident had been declared.

“I got up and came in. Clearly, on my way I was listening to the news, hearing stories and bits and pieces so I had an idea of what I was coming into,” said Ms Bailey who is also the trust’s deputy chief executive and director of risk and governance.

“I knew in the hospital they would have activated the major incident plan and that would initiate the call-out systems, and the two wards that we designate to take casualties would already have started about moving or discharging patients.

“When I got in, we’d only had walk-in casualties who’d walked in having made their way from the arena.

“Some of the staff had relatives who were at the concert – they knew they were fine – but that brought it home.

University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust

Exclusive: Manchester nurses praised for professionalism in wake of terror attack

Mandy Bailey

“Clearly, when we got our first ‘priority one’ casualty we recognised the nature of the injuries was not the usual, and that was very distressing.

“The other thing that was distressing was there were a number of families who wanted to know where their relatives were – they couldn’t get hold of them so were ringing all the hospitals. That was quite difficult, but we just had to be really supportive and tell them ‘this is the number to call’.

“We set up an area to support the families. Some clearly had more than one person who was injured and people who were missing, and that was very sad.

“For me, it was about ensuring a calm, focused atmosphere to manage the patients we had, ensure we supported staff who might be upset, and make sure people caring for other patients on the ward were equally valued.

“As the night went on, we needed to start thinking about the next day and what operations could run.

“When patients came in they needed treatment from a number of specialities. We had plastic surgeons, general surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons, vascular surgeons – all working together at some point on most patients. We had three teams of multi-professional surgeons and theatre staff and people with the right nursing skills in A&E, theatre and ultimately intensive care.

“They weren’t doing unusual techniques, but the nature of some of the injuries were new to people.

“We had done training exercises, including one a few weeks ago, but when you do it for real it is different. What made me most proud was the way the teams worked together – they were calm, in control and compassionately doing their job.

“The fundamental issue for me now is how we support the patients and families, but equally important is the staff.

“We are running a number of debriefing sessions – group sessions and individual sessions. It is important for senior leaders to be visible, thanking people.

“There are always lessons to be learned but I think it went as well as I thought it could, and the response from the public has been amazing. We’ve had children come in and buy sweets for the A&E team to say ‘thank you’ – someone made a plate of sandwiches the other day to bring in for the nursing teams. We have really pulled together as a city and it has brought the best out of people at the worst time.

“I am exceptionally proud to be a nurse and very proud to be the chief nurse for our 2,000 nurses, midwives, support workers and allied health professionals. I am very proud of the care we provide anyway, but something like this really does bring it home to you how amazing, dedicated and selfless these people are.”

Meanwhile, further to the east, Judith Morris was at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust.

“The professionalism and compassion of my nursing staff shone through”

Judith Morris

A recent greater Manchester-wide training exercise helped ensure teams across the city were as ready as they could be for the real thing, but there are always lessons to be learned, the director of nursing and midwifery told Nursing Times.

“We had just had a greater Manchester exercise at the end of March. It was a table-top exercise but a very similar scenario. Although clearly it is never a substitute for the real thing, it did work well and just helped to remind everyone what their roles would be and what they were responsible for and allowed us to update minor things.

“Even without that exercise, we still always have a major incident plan that is reviewed very regularly.

“At one of the first debriefs, people were coming up with very practical things we could change. The director on call overnight said she could have done with having a TV. We were all at home watching it unfold but she didn’t know any of that, so we’re going to make sure our control room has a television.

“Our theatres took a lot of the pressure as well as the emergency department. One of the things our head of nursing for theatres highlighted was the fact that, usually, when people come in for surgery – even as an emergency – we have got a relatives’ room.

Stockport NHS Foundation Trust

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Judith Morris

“But that night there were so many relatives, family members and friends, we had nowhere to put them. We found places for them to go and tried to make them as comfortable as possible, but it just made us think about our major incident plans going forward and the fact we need somewhere where relatives can congregate.

“Although we have areas in other parts of the hospital that are fully kitted out, they didn’t want to go there, because they wanted to be near their loved ones, which made complete sense but was something we hadn’t thought of – the ability to care for large numbers of relatives in a theatre complex.

“So yes – there is always learning and we will make sure we put that into place and tweak our plans accordingly.

“On the night, the professionalism and compassion of my nursing staff shone through and I now have to take part in supporting them afterwards.

“I have got excellent senior nurses and matrons who are doing the same thing – I know I also need to look out for my senior staff too.”

  • Patients from the incident were also treated at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust
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