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Brunel celebrates 73 years of our NHS

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Supporting the NHS at 73: (From top left) Catherine Pelley MBE, Paul Josse, Rachel Kerslake, Sir Richard Sykes, Dr Jenni Jones, Dr Eve Corner MBE

Today we celebrate 73 years of the National Health Service – our NHS.

On this day in 1948, the NHS was born. Against the backdrop of a country still recovering from the ravages of World War Two, the NHS promised Britons, regardless of who they were, that they would never be burdened with the cost of healthcare. From the cradle to the grave, they would be taken care of, free of charge.

The past 16 months have demonstrated that today the NHS is more important than ever. In the country’s hour of need, those who work for and with the NHS stepped up to the plate and did us proud.

To celebrate the NHS and those who work with it, today we meet just some of the Brunelians who for the past year have gone above and beyond to help the country get through its worst crisis in generations.

Catherine Pelley MBE

Alumna Catherine Pelley MBE is chief nurse and director of governance at the Homerton University Hospital in Hackney, where she has been at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19.

Catherine qualified as a nurse from the Hillingdon, Harefield and Mount Vernon School of Nursing before moving to Hillingdon Hospital as a ward sister and enrolling at Brunel, first as an undergraduate in community health nursing, and then as a master in health care management.

Throughout her career she has been promoted to a number of leadership roles and has authored a handbook for NHS England for use by ward sisters and managers.

In June 2021, she was awarded an MBE for her services to nursing leadership.

Rachel Kerslake

Alumna Rachel Kerslake is undertaking a PhD in Molecular Biology and working in the red zone of Brunel’s Asymptomatic Testing Site (ATS) as a sample processor.

A familiar face to many on campus, Rachel studied Biomedical sciences at Brunel and worked at the Union of Brunel Students as the Vice President for CHLS – now known as CHMLS.

Rachel says working at the testing centre alongside her PhD has been a challenging but rewarding experience during the pandemic.

“Sometimes I have to work on the weekend but as long as I get time to watch Wales play in the rugby I'm happy,” said Rachel.

“Every day is different when you're doing a PhD, I could be treating my cell culture early in the morning then helping out at the ATS until 2pm, staining tissue in the afternoon and back in again late at night to process a time point. Or I might be at home doing data analysis, reading, writing and drinking enough tea to sink a ship."

Dr Jenni Jones

Brunel lecturer Dr Jenni Jones coordinates the Exercise4MyHealth programme, where physiotherapy students help local people with long-term chronic conditions, predominantly heart disease and stroke. Around 80 percent of people with heart and circulatory diseases have at least one other health condition – making them a very high-risk group for COVID-19.

Following lockdown, the programme was forced to go virtual, leading to come incredible results:

“Our students have been phenomenal,” said Jenni. “Their befriending service to support people living with a range of chronic health conditions has successfully enabled access to a range of virtual health initiatives.

“I've seen some real innovation with students providing individualised exercise prescription, running group exercise classes, designing health promotion workshops and leaflets as well as creating and sharing bespoke programmes and videos, and then in turn being sent videos of their participant's progress.

“They have done a fantastic job in adapting services and created high quality measurably successful virtual delivery."

Hana Sommerville

Alumna Hana Sommerville was in the third year of her physiotherapy degree and completing a placement at Brompton Hospital when the country was plunged into lockdown.

Whilst she was there to complete her clinical hours, Hana went above and beyond to complete extra hours as an assistant, taking on long hours, including at the weekend. After completing her degree, she went on to work as a physiotherapy assistant working in intensive care.

On her experience working for the NHS during the pandemic, Hana said at the time: “It is naturally challenging mentally and physically but I am so grateful for this opportunity to use my clinical skills and I'm learning so much. I love the hospital and the team are lovely, I am very lucky to have connections to Brunel with some of our physiotherapy lecturers working clinically too at the same hospital.”

Dr Eve Corner MBE

Dr Eve Corner, a critical care physiotherapist and lecturer in physiotherapy at Brunel, was awarded an MBE for her workdesigning and delivering a high-quality national training scheme that prepared NHS staff to be re-deployed to intensive care units (ICUs) to care for patients hospitalised by the virus.

Eve led a Brunel team that worked alongside analytics company 33N to rapidly develop pre-recorded lectures and interactive tutorials with specialists in critical care, demonstrating how to monitor and interpret ICU equipment, ventilation skills, and much more.

In five days, Eve and colleagues developed the content and the interactive web systems, and delivered the pilot to just shy of 100 candidates. Since then, over 2000 clinicians from more than 170 Health Trusts across all four home nations and the Republic of Ireland have benefited from the training.

In January 2021, Eve was honoured with an MBE for her services to health education.

Sir Richard Sykes

Biochemist and Brunel Chancellor Sir Richard Sykes is chair of the UK Government’s vaccine taskforce.

Sir Richard leads the work to find, procure and deliver vaccines in the biggest vaccination drive in NHS history, overseeing preparations for any potential vaccine booster programmes and working to make the UK a centre of excellence for the next generation of vaccines

Upon being awarded the role in June 2021, Sir Richard said: “I am determined to make sure the UK remains in the best possible position to beat this virus and has the tools it needs to respond to future public health threats. And I hope my appointment encourages future scientists, like those studying at Brunel, to aspire further in public health and biotechnology.”

Paul Josse

Paul Josse, technical manager in the Department of Design, led a team of Brunel students and alumni in 3D-printing face visors for hospitals, health centres and surgeries.

The team used Brunel’s 3D printing facilities to produce around 100 visors per day which were distributed to health care works across Hillingdon and as far afield as Norfolk.

The printing was done in support of a larger project ran at Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital’s supply chain hub in Dartford, where 200 3D-printers ran 24 hours a day producing potentially life-saving PPE equipment.

Paul said at the time: “It has been fantastic to see so many of our students and alumni come forward to volunteer to help at this amazing initiative. We have great workshop facilities at Brunel, so we have been very pleased to also offer some technical expertise and specialist equipment to support the project.”

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