Manchester’s spirit of humanity across generations

Across the country, thousands of retired NHS workers have returned to service to support the coronavirus effort. Brian Eadon (a University of Manchester 1975 Pharmacy graduate), who retired from practice 18 months ago, is one of these servicemen.

Brian heads up the pharmacy team at the Rainbow Hospital Deeside. It’s here that he met, and became mentor to, Manchester History student Mike Jennings, who began volunteering at the hospital after face-to-face teaching at the University was moved online in March.

Answering the call

Having served in various positions in his 25-year career with the Royal Army Marine Corps (including spells in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Bosnia), Brian thought days working in field hospitals were behind him. But when the coronavirus crisis began, he wrote to his chief pharmacist in North Wales and offered to come back in any capacity required.

Brian Eadon

When the call came, it was to return to practice at the Rainbow Hospital Deeside. The hospital, housed in a converted leisure centre, is one of three temporary facilities in North Wales that the health board introduced to help prevent admissions to the three acute hospitals in the area.

“This hospital is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our craftsmen and workers here in North Wales,” says Brian. “To my colleagues out working in field hospitals in places like Africa, this would look like a luxury, and it’s a real privilege to work here.”

Eager to make a difference

First-year Manchester student Mike was also keen to support his local NHS service and swiftly changed gears from studying for his degree in History to volunteering in the field hospital.

Mike Jennings

“It’s undoubtedly unnerving volunteering in an environment such as this. However, I was eager to make a difference in any way that I could,” he reflects.

While helping in the stores, Mike has continued his coursework online for his degree. While he has one eye on the future, his volunteering has paced him very much in the moment.  

“I have witnessed first-hand the effects of COVID-19 and it has made me very appreciative of the situation I am in now, even if the future is somewhat uncertain,” he says.

Brian describes the pharmacy post as a “no-frills service” – but it’s a way to open up vital time for nurses and clinicians to be with patients.

“Pharmacy supports the fight against COVID-19 in a great way. From taking stock checks on the wards to getting the right treatments, to the right patients at the right time,” he explains.

“It’s essential that doctors and nurses have more time with their patients, and we’re there to help them in whatever way we can.”

Ongoing need

As the Rainbow Hospital Deeside now awaits new COVID patients, the NHS continues to recruit volunteers like Brian and Mike to support stretched essential services. As Brian puts it: “We may be over the peak, but we are by no means out of the woods with this crisis.

“People don’t go into working in the health sector unless somewhere within them there is a real desire to help sick people get better, and that’s what drives me.

“To all the students graduating and going straight into the health service during this time, and to those thinking about returning, there’s still so much to be done, and we can certainly use your help.”