EMERGENCY service staff are working flat out to meet the challenge of coronavirus.

NHS workers at Worcestershire Royal Hospital are pulling out all the stops amid the crisis, says a chaplain there.

Reverend Dr David Southall spoke out after the government revealed its key workers – those people in jobs classed as vital to keep the country going, and whose children will be allowed to stay in school or childcare, so they can continue to go to work.

Key workers include staff in health and social care, education and childcare, key public services such as journalism, local and national government, food and other necessary goods, public safety and national security, transport, utilities, communication and financial services.

Rev Southall said: “The hospital is, because of coronavirus, a different place – and I know, from the people I meet and talk to that there is so much anxiety out there.

“Health, children, job security, food provision and the like take their toll on our mental health. So I wanted to reassure you about the hospital. I am surrounded by professionals who are at the top of their game. I see regular, clear updates from the executive team and senior managers. And on the wards, I see the same level of compassion and care in these trying times.

“Staff here know what they are doing! And more than that, we are all thinking of creative ways of helping the patients and relatives who come under our care.”

Rev Southall said ‘scary’ gowns and gloves were normal procedures.

He said: “I myself have been on a ward helping provide support for my friend: gown, gloves and mask. Just normal infection control procedures but I can see how this might look scary for other people.

“At the moment the hospital is eerily quiet. There have been restrictions on relatives visiting patients and wards closed to visitors apart from those patients nearing the end of life. It seems that this is the new normality.”

Rev Southall said the hospital was working on new ways to help patients and their families.

He said: “The hospital, including the Chaplaincy, will still be able to give emotional and pastoral support to relatives and families. Not face to face, of course, but with telephone and internet.

“We will be thinking about new ways to help people who live on their own with limited social connections once they are discharged, especially if they have to self-isolate on discharge. Maybe this will be with proactive phone calls once they are home or working with groups in the community which have sprung up to help the vulnerable.

“And in the near future we will, of course, be working, in any way possible, with those who have lost family members: support, advice, reassurance and whatever is needed. There will be obstacles in the way we will overcome them. So for now, be reassured that top class people are doing their level best in these uncertain times.”

Emergency service leaders have praised their staff for their efforts to keep the community safe.

Julian Moss, deputy chief constable from West Mercia Police, said: “Our colleagues within the NHS are leading the response and I know we, along with our communities, are massively grateful for all they are doing.

“I am hugely proud of the West Mercia Police officers, staff and volunteers for the dedication and commitment they have shown in these testing times, with many making personal sacrifices to ensure we continue to keep people safe.”

Nathan Travis, chief fire officer from Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Currently, all of our staff - from the frontline teams across the two counties to all those people that support them - are working flat out to help maintain our local services to communities.”

“In order to do that, they have had to pull out all the stops and be really flexible, as we have got our plans and resources in place to deal with the challenges ahead. I’m exceptionally proud of them and of leading such a ‘can-do’ organisation.”

Anthony Marsh, chief executive from West Midlands Ambulance Service, said: “I am very confident that the arrangements we have in place will serve us as an organisation well, together with the public and our patients.

“We are in a really strong position to do two main things. Firstly, protect all of our staff and secondly, by protecting them it will allow us to continue providing world class care for our patients and save as many lives as possible.

“None of that would be possible without the enormous commitment and professionalism being shown by our 6,500 staff and 1,000 volunteers, and to all of them I say a very special thank you for everything they are doing to protect the 999 service.”

Jayne Howles, teacher from Gloverspiece Minifarm, said: “It’s an uncertain time for everyone and teachers are doing their bit to help out and support the country.

“However, the guilt and indecisions of what to do for the best is immense. Teachers want to be with their school family but have to sacrifice their own family’s needs to do so. Some staff are self-isolating due to their families being ill or in a high-risk category, which then puts pressure on remaining teachers to take on their roles.

“I’ve been busy finding ways to teach remotely and have been sending work packs home. I have to say everyone has been very positive and resourceful in finding a solution on what is the best way to help and support our community, and have been unselfish in their pursuit of this.”

Lizzy Wrafter, who manages R&L Healthcare, said she is happy to be classed as a key worker.

The Worcester company supports people who require end of life care, in their own homes in Worcestershire.

Mrs Wrafter, aged 30, said: “The government making the decision to keep nurseries and schools open will help. I know 70 per cent of my workers are working mums or single working mums. By keeping the provisions open it will mean we can still provide a full service to those who wish to have end of life care.”

Mrs Wrafter, from Droitwich, has a 16-month-old son and has been in the role since 2014.

She added: “I would like to say a massive thank you to all of the R & L Healthcare team. Without these staff we would not be able to provide the crucial care to those who need it. From those in the office to those who are out delivery care. I am very lucky to have the staff we have pulling together and working as a team.”

Mark Pollard, headteacher at Bishop Perowne CE College, said: “We have asked all key workers to make themselves known to us and tell us whether they need full or part time provision. We have many who work for the NHS, in other emergency services or in social care.This will not be ‘school as normal’ but rather provision that allows the workers to go to work without worry about the safety and security of their children.”

“We will divide the time between supervising and supporting students to complete the online work that we have set the rest of the student population and some ‘less serious’ activities like art, sport, cooking and drama.

“It is not a continuation of the national curriculum as it will be operated by a skeleton staff who will be coming in on a rota and volunteer basis.”