'Staff worked tirelessly': Whittington praises staff after misleading picture

The Whittington's ITU staff were given free pizza by an anonymous benefactor. Picture: Whittington H

The Whittington's ITU staff were given free pizza by an anonymous benefactor. Picture: Whittington Health - Credit: Archant

Whittington Hospital chiefs say staff "worked tirelessly during the pandemic and followed all guidance", after a photograph was circulated on social media with the implication that medics were breaking lockdown.

The hospital, in Magdela Avenue, was forced to defend itself after a cropped picture of staff eating pizza, was shared on Twitter. 

The account holder wrote "How is this any different to cake at the office?" implying that the staff were breaking lockdown restrictions - much like prime minister Boris Johnson did.

In fact the picture, previously published in the Ham&High, predated lockdown. The date was not shown in the post and this newspaper has decided not to give further publicity to the poster by identifying them.

Whittington Health NHS Trust responded: "This photograph features our staff and was taken in March 2020, before the law prevented social gatherings [on March 23] so no rules are being broken here.

"Our staff worked tirelessly during the pandemic and followed all guidance. To suggest otherwise is misleading and does not represent reality."

Leon restaurant chain donated more than 200 meals for staff to have lunch during extremely busy shifts during the pandemic

Leon restaurant chain donated more than 200 meals for staff to have lunch during extremely busy shifts during the pandemic - Credit: @WhitHealth

In March of this year, Whittington chief executive Siobhan Harrington and chairman Baroness Julia Neuberger, wrote to staff to mark the second anniversary of the World Health Organisation declaring a pandemic.

Most Read

"Reflecting on the pandemic, we know that much of what we had to do at the beginning and at times over the last two years has been far from ideal," they wrote.

"We know especially how difficult it was for those colleagues who were redeployed into new and unfamiliar areas and roles.

"We also know how unsettling this period was for those who were clinically extremely vulnerable who were forced to endure the most unrelenting self-isolation.

"We know that whilst we never ran out of PPE here at Whittington Health, the risk was a concern for many and preventing it was a huge job for our colleagues tasked with providing it.

Fundraising appeals were set up at the Whittington so staff could eat during shifts

Fundraising appeals were set up at the Whittington so staff could eat during shifts - Credit: @WhitHealth

"Whatever your personal pandemic story, it was tough for everyone. Words cannot express our gratitude and that of the whole trust board – and importantly, everyone from the communities we serve from Barnet to Haringey and from Camden to Hillingdon for how you all stepped up."

The pressure on medical staff grew throughout 2020, and from September, through to April 2021, changes were made in north London with children's services based at the Whittington while the Royal Free became the centre for Covid patients.

As reported in this paper, many staff members did not get to see their families during Christmas in 2020 or 2021 as they were needed on the front line. 

Hospital staff described a 'distressing' battle against rising Covid cases in January 2021. The hospital went on "divert" – meaning it could not take emergency patients, due to a combination of bed shortages and high demand for oxygen.

In January this year both Whittington Health and the Royal Free London accepted support from the armed forces in an effort to deal with Covid-19. 

The Ministry of Defence confirmed on January 7 that around 200 armed forces personnel were to be deployed to help London hospitals cope with staff shortages. 

At the time Whittington Health had 138 staff members off with Covid. The Royal Free had 297.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks with medical staff during a visit to the Whittington hos

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks with medical staff during a visit to the Whittington hospital on March 15, 2021. - Credit: PA

In October, all of Whittington Health's staff were made honorary freepersons of the London Borough of Islington for exceptional services to the public - something Ms Harrington accepted "with deep pride" from Islington Council and the community.

Ms Harrington and Baroness Neuberger said last month that conditions have improved at the hospital, largely thanks to the vaccination programme and "many new treatments that have been developed at record speed". 

They said that they were continuing to monitor infection rates, which they had not seen "translate into hospital admissions of very sick patients with serious disease". 

"Everyone is under pressure and working hard to ensure that we can treat those waiting for planned care and the increasing number of patients needing emergency care as quickly and as safely as possible," they said.

"The challenges remain and we realise that it might, sometimes, feel a little relentless.

"But if we can harness once again that spirit of 'we can do' that is in such abundance across Whittington Health, we will prevail."