Update from Kingston Hospital Chaplaincy

I am afraid I can only offer an update from a distance because I am working from home as an assistant chaplain at Kingston Hospital.  In happier days I work on site for 20 hours a week – my main responsibilities being the coordination of the “on call” chaplains and the chaplaincy volunteers as well as covering and supporting the lead chaplain in planning, teaching, strategy etc.  I focus particularly on bereavement and supporting those at the end of life.

Fortunately, the Chaplaincy has 3 younger chaplains who are maintaining on “on-site” presence every day and the five “on call” who cover the nights do this by telephone – as you can imagine this is really quite challenging.

Kingston Hospital were very quick at responding to this pandemic and in the early weeks of lockdown the Hospital was very much geared to the Covid situation.  This involved teams of doctors, nurses and support staff needing PPE much of the time and working round the clock to care for those who were affected by the virus.  This was really gruelling work.  There was a need to keep the footfall of the Hospital at a minimum to prevent the further transmission of the virus.  Some departments were closed down and staff either worked from home (and over the telephone) or were transferred to the areas that needed more staff.  My “on site” colleagues spent time in their PPE in intensive care or Covid wards.

Kingston was part of the South West London region – where there was significant combined planning and communication.  The Chief Executive gave a daily bulletin on video and often had videoed conversations with key people throughout the Hospital.  This was an excellent way of keeping in touch with everyone and allowing people to feel really connected.  The boroughs of Kingston and Richmond accounted for far fewer deaths and infected patients than the other areas in the South west region.

At present there are very few patients in Intensive Care and the other wards are moving back towards their original specialisms and the Emergency Department which saw a huge slump in attendance is now have a more normal attendance.  It is also now possible in some circumstances for a relative to be allowed on the ward to visit a family member at the end of life – often with the support of chaplaincy and followed up by the “on call” chaplains.  We have managed to produce a monthly newsletter and regular phone calls to keep connected to our volunteers and we have been involved in a variety of funerals, with all the challenges and constraints that need to be in place.

Along with a huge number of other people I have felt very unsettled over the last weeks and finding working from home very difficult.  I need to pay tribute to all the front line staff (chaplaincy included) who have worked fearlessly, professionally and compassionately over this pandemic and also to thank my colleagues who are working from home as well and all those in our families and communities who pray regularly for all our Hospitals and Care Homes.  Kingston Hospital will remain on full alert for several more weeks but there is a gradual move back to the normal life of the hospital and there is an attempt to begin to face the backlog of thousands of missed operations and appointments.

But everyone has to really vigilant.  It is very probable that with the necessity of social distancing I may not be back on-site til 2021 – there is no going backwards – much has been learnt about infection control – and how hospital staff can reform to face the complexities of a very dangerous virus which affects us all.  I hope to update you again in a few months.

I hope you all remain well and in good spirits – please keep Kingston Hospital in your thoughts and prayers

The Revd Judith Roberts, Kingston Hospital chaplain and Associate priest at St. Michael’s Barnes