At the start of lockdown the MBA’s Cellular & Molecular research group donated their PPE, including gloves and goggles, to community care workers on the NHS frontline, helping them during the critical period when supplies were limited.

Some staff members were keen to offer further support to the NHS. With the Citadel Hill laboratories temporarily closed, furloughed staff Drs Susie Wharam & Rowena Stern volunteered to help their local hospital (Derriford, in Plymouth), arranged through the MBA’s Dr Glen Wheeler and Richard Kua, PCOT coordinator at Derriford. The work was very different from their usual genomic analysis of phytoplankton: instead they helped with hospital data handling and administrative tasks.

The covid-19 outbreak has increased the demand for blood gas testing. To ensure sufficient testing capacity within the hospital, a number of different types of blood gas analysers were being compared. By formatting graphs and tables from the large amounts of test data, Susie and Rowena helped create reports that were used by the Derriford team to make rapid clinical decisions. As a result, hospital staff could redeploy blood-testing equipment within the hospital and plan for any increased demand in intensive care.

Another task involved phoning NHS sites across the South of England to discuss a quality control scheme for glucose meters used by hospitals, care homes and community care teams. This turned out to be quite a challenge, since the nursing staff were extremely busy due to the pandemic and also working remotely - tracking down the right people to speak to, with offices closed, took some detective work! The information collected should help ensure the accuracy of patients’ blood sugar test results across the region. 

The MBA researchers were struck by both the professionalism and good humour of the NHS staff, in obviously difficult circumstances – talking to them was a humbling experience at times. Help with the routine tasks gave the Derriford clinicians more time to focus on other work and to train nursing staff.

“Thank you for pitching in and helping us during this rather challenging time.  It was actually a great boost to our morale too.  Everyone was overstretched and then help arrived for us when things were at their most difficult.” (Richard Kua, POCT Coordinator, Derriford Hospital)

Susie and Rowena are so glad they could help!


Jul 16, 2020 By maypla