Coronavirus in Hampstead: Nursing staff returning to the Royal Free to fight coronavirus ‘will be supported’ promises chief

Rebecca Longmate, Royal Free Hospital director of nursing. Picture: Royal Free Hospital

Rebecca Longmate, Royal Free Hospital director of nursing. Picture: Royal Free Hospital - Credit: Archant

“You will be supported on the wards.”

A view of the Royal Free Hospital teaching hospital in the Hampstead area of the London Borough of C

A view of the Royal Free Hospital teaching hospital in the Hampstead area of the London Borough of Camden. The hospital is part of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday February 6, 2020. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire - Credit: PA

That’s the message from the Royal Free Hospital’s director of nursing to those considering returning to the NHS to help amid the coronavirus crisis.

The director, Rebecca Longmate, has moved to reassure would-be returning nurses that the trust does have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and it is happy to talk through concerns with any of those worried about coming back to nursing at this time.

Rebecca spoke to this newspaper as part of a campaign from the Capital Nurse North Central London’s Bring Back Bureau to get nurses who are not currently working to volunteer to come back to the NHS.

She explained what nursing during the battle against Covid-19 has been like for her staff.


She said: “Everywhere dealing with Covid is doing so working hard in their own different ways. In the early days we had quite a lot of people off, but now we have got quite a lot of empty beds so we are managing people coming back to work.”

Key to the hospital’s nursing strategy has been moving staff more used to dealing with outpatients onto the hospital’s critical care wards. She said: “We have been giving them all the preparation and training they need to get back to the wards.”

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Incoming students are also set to help the hospital’s nursing staff, but so far only a handful of nurses have returned from retirement or career breaks.

She said: “We have not yet had many staff returning to practice yet, we have had three across the group. We would like to try and get these kind of people back into work, and what we offer is the same vow we give to every nurse in the organisation.”

Rebecca moved to quash any worries about the availablity of PPE. She said: “There’s a lot of news around PPE. We have got enough PPE for everybody and a lot of the training we put on consists of PPE training. “All our staff have access to the top PPE and everyone will get training before starting. We just want to encourage more nurses coming back into the profession.”

And what will any returning nurses face?

“If you come back to the hospital now you will be working with Covid positive patients or those suspected of having it,” Rebecca said. “You will be supported by specialist nurses on the wards.”

The nurse, who has worked at the Royal Free for 22 years, added she was hopeful the tide was turning.

She added: We are seeing less patients coming into hospital but we are still dealing with Covid patients and suspected patients. These patients are normally very unwell and many of them are required to go to ITU.

“But we are discharging a lot of people.”

She also spoke of how the hospital had found dealing with the coronavirus. She said: “It was very challenging in the beginning. Every day has been different and I am very proud of my nursing staff and how they have come to terms with working in different ways.

“We should question, when we are out of this, whether we can and should do things in different ways. We have learned a lot.”

Rebecca said any returning nurses would be able to see what the wards are like, get in touch with the hospital and the Royal Free would even run taster days to give people an idea of what working to keep coronavirus patients alive was like.

Colleagues in positions at the Whittington Hospital and North Middlesex in Enfield had a similar message. Michelle

Michelle Johnson, Whittington Health’s chief nurse added the trust “looked forward” to welcoming returning nurses back. She added: “I realise it must seem scary to come back into practice but we will work with individual nurses to ensure that are well prepared and have their skills refreshed so they feel safe and confident when they start working clinically.”

If you are a nurse currently not working and want to offer your services to the NHS, contact the CapitalNurse North Central London Bring Back Bureau on The team have Maggie Pratt, aregistered nurse, available to discuss the worries or concerns of anybody who is unsure or lacking confidence – and they can also help you through the returning process. For general guidance, see