Stoke-on-Trent City Council has been forced to keep all its leisure centres closed due to the current lockdown restrictions.
At the same time, University Hospitals of North Midlands, which runs the Royal Stoke, is facing increasing problems due to staff shortages – without around half of absences related to coronavirus.
A team of 25 council workers have now agreed to be redeployed to UHNM in support roles to help relieve this pressure.
This builds on the city council’s redeployment programme during the first wave, which saw leisure staff trained up to work in social care.
And UHNM has also been temporarily transferring its own back office staff to wards so nurses can focus on their most important duties.
UHNM chief executive Tracy Bullock tweeted her thanks to Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of social care at the city council, for arranging the volunteer scheme.
She tweeted: “Paul Edmondson-Jones, on behalf of UHNM staff and patients can I thank you and Peter Tomlin [assistant director for adult social care] for providing significant support from teams from your leisure staff.
“We look forward to seeing them and will promise to look after them.”
Dr Edmondson-Jones replied: “We have 25 members of staff who’ve volunteered to come and support you. I’m sure the Royal Stoke knows just how strong the special bond is with the city. You do so much for us and residents love to reciprocate.”
Council leader Abi Brown believes the willingness of council staff to support their NHS colleagues demonstrates why Stoke-on-Trent was recently voted the UK’s ‘kindest city’.
She tweeted: “So proud that Stoke-on-Trent City Council is providing volunteers to support our colleagues at UHNM when they need us – our workforce are local and so rightly proud. This is why we are the kindest city in the UK.”
UHNM is expecting the number of Covid-19 patients to rise over the coming days, largely due to the arrival of the highly infectious new strain of the virus in Staffordshire.
The issue of how UHNM and the local health system as a whole would be able to cope with the latest surge cases was raised during a meeting of the trust board.
Paul Bytheway, chief operating officer at UHNM, said the closure of non-essential public services would allow staff to be redeployed elsewhere, as was the case in the spring.
He said: “We’re going to be having a meeting looking at what will happen if we are overwhelmed. Just to give you some reassurance, it’s things like leisure services staff providing social care, because that’s what we did in wave one.
“So all of those areas that are now closed down because of lockdown, actually gives us an opportunity that we didn’t have in November and the end of October.
“So while it seems bad, there are actually more resources in the community because of lockdown to allow us to move more people forward.”