Retirement on hold as Carol stays on the frontline

Frontline workers remain as important as ever as work goes on every day to support those who need help during the pandemic.

We catch up with two members of our health and adult services staff doing vital jobs on opposite sides of the county.

Carol McKenzie was about to swap her life working in the Airedale Discharge Command Centre for retirement, helping out on the family farm and running her holiday cottage business in the Yorkshire Dales.

But as her retirement coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic, she was asked if she could stay for a bit longer.

Carol has worked for health and adult services for 37 years and in Airedale for the past 16 years – and she and her colleagues work well together to ensure the job is done.

As a team they’ve adapted to lockdown to ensure they continue communicating clearly with each other and with service users and their families to ensure the top level of care is being reached.

Carol said: “I was due to retire in March and the Sunday before I was due to finish I got a call asking if I could stay.

“Because I knew the job, I thought it was the right thing to do – it would be hard for a new person to learn while having to do everything virtually.

“It was in the middle of lambing season though, which my husband was hoping I could help with – sometimes I’d be in a virtual meeting and there’d be some funny noises because I’d be feeding a lamb at the same time.”

On a usual, pre-Covid day, Carol would be up early to make the 23-mile drive to Airedale Hospital.

She and her colleagues would assess patients in order to get them discharged safely, working closely with health colleagues to ensure a smooth transition.

The pandemic changed her way of working because she has to do this from home, with health staff making the trusted assessment referral on the patients and feeding back.

She said: “It’s harder speaking to family members over the phone rather than in person – I always think it’s harder for them to ask questions, but we ensure we have someone ready to answer any calls for them if they need to call back.

“It’s all about giving people the confidence that the correct support is in place for their loved ones during this time.

“The team was close-knit and experienced anyway, so it’s really helped me having that support, too.

“The Craven area and the teams within the area all work well and efficiently and effectively together.

“There has been a lot of good will from the teams to make this temporary new way of working work.”

For Jayne Howarth, a social worker based in Whitby and Scarborough, the biggest way in which she’s had to adapt to life and work during the Covid-19 pandemic is not being able to speak to service users face to face.

Jayne, along with other key workers across the county, has helped to keep North Yorkshire running smoothly despite the unprecedented circumstances of a global pandemic.

“There’s two sides to my job, I’m in the independence team – normally we do assessments of people who are not currently open to health and adult social care. We assess, screen and put in reablement if it’s appropriate, or we pass it on to the planned care team if they have long-term support needs. At present we are adopting a one team approach across all of the independence and planned care teams, so we are doing a bit of everything.

“I’m also a safeguarding officer, so a good chunk of my work is safeguarding, too.

“This is how I met one lady, through my safeguarding work.

“She has a care agency helping her at home, but when her daughter had to self-isolate for 12 weeks she went to live with her during this period, so that her daughter could still provide informal support and it meant carers not coming in and out, so it reduced the risk to her mum.

“With situations like this one, you have to be aware that it might cause deterioration and dependency having a family member around 100 per cent of the time.

“But it was a really positive outcome – the daughter did a fantastic job of empowering her to be independent.

“The lady greeted me at the door when I visited her after she had returned to her own home, with her hair and her make-up done, independent as ever.”

Jayne said small successes like this are heartening to see in her role.

One of the main ways Jayne has adapted in her job is doing assessments over the phone, rather than face-to-face.

“The hardest thing has been giving assessments over the telephone.

“I’ve not worked with anyone so far who has been able to use Skype or video call, meaning most of my assessments have been done over the telephone.

“We had one case where I had to make a decision about a long-term care plan for someone who lacked mental capacity to make that decision for herself.

“Usually, you’d spend time with them, getting to know them, but under the current circumstances that hasn’t been possible.

“The person was in a care home, it was a potentially life-changing decision.

“I found out family had been going to speak to her through the window of her care home, so I decided to do that. We had a good chat.”

Jayne and her team are close-knit too, and despite not seeing each other in their usual working environments, they ensure they are all there to support each other through Skype calls and group messaging.