Airline crew aim to keep NHS staff spirits flying high six months after launch of Wingman Lounge at…

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20201124_110522.jpgAs the impact of the COVID-19 second wave is being felt at Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals (WHH) a project which has seen airline crew provide much needed respite and refreshments has climbed to new heights.

The Project Wingman Foundation opened its lounge at Warrington Hospital six months ago this week, during the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, to offer an airline-style first class service to NHS staff on their breaks. The highly successful and valued project has fostered camaraderie and collaboration between airline crew and staff and Wingman at Warrington and is no less important today than it was when it first launched. Such is the success of the partnership, WHH has been chosen to be one of 10 Wingman permanent ‘Legacy Lounges’ in the country and the only one in a hospital in the north of England.

Project Wingman has brought airline crew, including current and former flight deck and cabin crew, together to serve up smiles, empathy and much needed teas, coffees and light refreshments to Warrington hospital staff working on the COVID frontline. It has catered for 23,000 visits from staff during its first six months and been supported from the outset by the Warrington and Halton Hospitals’ Charity which supplies refreshments through the numerous generous donations made by local people and businesses to the Community Hub.

The positive impact on staff can be seen in the numerous thank you cards given to the volunteers and comments in the guest book expressing thanks, not just for the service but for the kindness and emotional support willingly offered by the Wingman crew during their time on-board. One comment simply said, “You were a ray of sunshine on a dark shift!” Another card to the Wingman team read, “Thank you for your kindness and the help you have given, it is not easy to express how someone has touched on our lives and brought such happiness.” Many other staff recognised the generosity of the Wingman volunteers who are giving up their time to help, despite facing their own challenges and uncertainties within the airline industry. 

The partnership has led to some unexpected benefits for both sets of uniformed colleagues, including sharing experiences from air safety drills which can be incorporated into patient safety and clinical simulation exercises.  Such has been the impression made by the Wingman volunteers at Warrington hospital, eight have gone on to use their skills and experience to come on-board at WHH and take on roles within the trust.

Warrington’s Project Wingman lead Captain Jonathan Simpson, 44 From Wilmslow explains,

“Warrington Hospital has really embraced the concept of Project Wingman and it is an honour to be able to continue this legacy providing the hardworking NHS staff with a space to come and have a break away from the wards during their working day.

“The lounge has not only given so much support to the NHS staff, but also to the airline staff volunteering their time. It has enabled us to come together to support each other as well as the NHS staff during this difficult and unstable time for us all. It has provided us with a focus and we have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking to such a varied range of staff and learning about the NHS.”

Professor Simon Constable, chief executive adds:

“We are delighted that the Wingman Foundation has chosen us to be one of 10 legacy lounges in the UK. They have become part of the WHH team and it is lovely to be in the lounge and see the incredible team spirit and camaraderie shine through.

WG Project Wingman.jpg“They have been amazing for our staff and it has provided a really different environment for them to relax while on a short break or at the end of a shift. As well as providing refreshment, the team has also listened and supported our staff enabling them to talk about the situations they have experienced. I am also really pleased that we have been able to learn from experienced air crew with regards to air safety and where this has parallels with patient safety in hospitals. 

“The ability to retain a permanent facility is thanks to the willingness of our amazing Wingman volunteers to continue to support us, despite their own very challenging situation, and our fantastic WHH Charity Community Hub which is working tirelessly to keep the lounge stocked for staff to enjoy.”

If you would like to help or make a donation to Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals please call the Community Hub on 01925 662 666 to arrange or email: WHH.charity@nhs.net or visit whhcharity@org.uk.