North Devon’s NHS staff have been going the extra mile to ensure their patients were cared for after snow cut off many communities.
GP Dr Glen Allaway has spent two nights sleeping on the floor at his practice in Lynton Health Centre to keep it open.
He sent two other GP colleagues - including his wife - safely home as temperatures plummeted.
Community nursing teams have been battling to get to their patients in remote settings, including the intrepid Alison Tyrell, who took to her husband’s quad bike to get to her most rural patients about five miles away in Parracombe.
Dr Allaway was prepared for the weather – he took a sleeping bag, soup and sandwiches to work, expecting to be cut off.
With the main road into the town closed following an accident, he was mostly limited to consultations by telephone, but he was determined to keep services running.
He said: “I’ve been stranded before in bad weather and stayed with people who run B and Bs locally, so this time I planned ahead and brought my sleeping bag.
“We have sensible and safe plans to keep things running – it just means doing things slightly differently. I have had to give advice on the telephone to patients who I would normally want to see, but they simply can’t get here safely so I’m giving advice and they know where I am if anything changes.
“The local shop has pretty much run out of supplies, but I have everything I need so I’m fine doing this while others get out and enjoy it where they can.”
Alison and her husband Peter ran the gauntlet of yesterday’s blizzards to reach patients. She said: “Luckily we got back before there was a complete whiteout, but the wind was vicious, blowing the snow into huge drifts. We had to dig the bike out twice.”
Chris Thomas, health and social care community services manager, said: “During this exceptionally cold and snowy weather, our health and social care teams have gone above and beyond in so many ways to make sure that the most vulnerable people we serve, are safe and receive the care they need.
“Some of our patients live in remote areas which have become cut off from the outside world and we have examples of many staff walking miles to see people and working together to make sure all needs are met.
“Alison is a fabulous example of someone who always puts her patients first; working in treacherous conditions and digging herself out of snow drifts to make sure her patients are safe, well and get the treatments they need. This is just the sort of thing she would always do, being very used to working in remote locations and taking it all I her stride.
“I am really proud of what all our teams have done over the last few days to go above and beyond what we could expect of them. Each one of them is a hero in my mind, and my thanks go to them and their families.”