The first and last blog I wrote in 2020 was in February of this year. Casting my eye back over that Blog 8 months ago, seems very surreal now. We had had a very busy start to the year, hosted many visitors to both the Centres, the Donor Engagement Team were gearing up for a frantic year of activity, we had a number of plans for Fundraising events and activities, the groundworks for our new Clinical Services Wing at Harrogate had just about started, and most importantly we were planning on treating over 2000 Police Patients over the next 6-8 months. Rather dispiritingly, all that planned activity foundered on the rock of COVID-19 and the lockdown when we had to close both Centres on 20th March.
At the time we rather naively assumed that we would only be closed for about 6 weeks and then everything would return to normal, when in fact nothing was further from the truth and we remained closed until 7th September. There is probably little point in recounting the stresses and strains of that period both from an organisational and personal perspective, but once it became clear that we were going to have to live alongside COVID-19 for some time, both Centres started to plan for how we might be able to re-open in a safe and secure manner for both Patients and members of the PTC Team, looking to do so at the earliest possible moment.
To be honest, it would have been the easiest thing to not re-open the Centres when we did because we were acutely conscious that in doing so there would be an elevated degree of risk to everyone who worked or was going to be treated as a Patient at the Centres. We were also very aware at the PTC that whilst much of the country was at home on Furlough, our Serving Police Officers did not have that choice and indeed were often working much harder with greater stress and physical demands on them than ever before. We therefore felt that we had a moral duty to get the PTC back open as swiftly as possible and to start treating Patients again.
It was a herculean effort to get both Centres operating in a safe COVID-19 workplace way. I want to thank both of my Centre Managers Adele Martin and Paul Grant for their hard work in getting both Centres ready to re-open, for not taking the easy option and delaying or seeking reasons why we should avoid taking difficult decisions, but for positively pushing out there and creating some sense of normality within a safe environment that has allowed us to now resume treatment for our Patients.
We are now almost one month into the new treatment environment and although for us at the PTC it is business as usual, there are some things that are different about the PTC and a treatment stay with us at the moment. If this is your first time at the PTC for treatment, many of the precautionary COVID secure measures in place are simply a reflection of what we all see when we are out and about on our personal business. If you have visited the PTC before, you will notice some differences in how we are doing things. I do want to reassure everyone that as far as possible, we are running treatment and indeed life at the PTC for both the Physiotherapy and the Wellbeing Programme as normally as is possible, and in a professional way which is designed to create a safe and secure environment for both staff and Patients. This does require a slightly different mindset and it is still rare that I manage to get to the end of the working day without catching myself going the wrong way down one of our new “One Way Corridors” or touching something that I should not have done, but we are all gradually getting there and living and learning as we go along.
As part of our new approach, we are operating both Centres at around 50% of their occupancy level in order to allow and encourage more effective social distancing when in the Centres. It is our intention to expand this slightly over the next month or so if it is safe to do so.
To date, I have been delighted with the response of both the PTC employees and of course the Patients in making the whole system work. If you pushed me to put a percentage on how close to normal a stay our treatment and work is at both Centres at the moment, I would suggest that it is in the range of 85-90%. To that end, if you are a PTC donor and you need our services, do please put in an application form and we will endeavour to get you in for treatment as swiftly as possible. I have made a point of talking to as many Patients in residence as possible over the last few weeks and I have been heartened by their high praise for the work that we are doing, and the fact that they genuinely do feel almost as safe as they could be anywhere at the moment.
As you would expect we are minimising the number of visitors that we have to the Centres at the moment, but there are a trickle coming through. One of those was Lisa Dolan from the Thin Blue Line Charity who we were delighted to welcome to PTC Harrogate on Wednesday 30 September to present a cheque for £7500. This was the balance of the money raised at the Thin Blue Line Ball in Manchester in April 2019 and the second instalment of money which in total amounted to £15,000 which has been worth waiting for. We are very grateful to Gary Craig and all the Trustees from the Thin Blue Line for nominating the PTC as their beneficiary Charity last year. They have asked for the money to be put towards our Mental Health and Wellbeing Programme which we will certainly do and we will look forward to working with Gary and the Thin Blue Line team in the future when we hopefully can get back to some semblance of normality.
I mentioned the new Clinical Services Wing in my first paragraph. Amongst a sea of uncertainty over the last 6 months, including the builders walking off the construction site at one stage, one of the things that I have been most pleased about is the fact we've been able to continue to work on our new Clinical Services Wing during the period of the lockdown. The work has surged ahead and is now currently on track for completion in spring 2021. The work is now at the stage where we can see some definition within the rooms and internal layout of both the new blocks, and it is clear that it is going to be a really superb facility that will provide PTC Harrogate with an extra 20 bedrooms, new counselling and treatment rooms, breakout rooms and a variety of other rooms and facilities to support an expanded and improved Psychological Wellbeing Programme. Part of this expansion will also allow us to add an extra Wellbeing Programme to our admission list each week and I know that from talking to many of our Police Patients in residence, this is much needed.
I would like to close by thanking all of our Serving Police Officers for their work and dedication during the lockdown. It has been a tough period for everyone over the last 6 months, and there is more to come, but the PTC is open, we hope to remain open, and we will be here for all of our Police Patients when they need our help.
Stay safe all.