On 29 March, our NMAHP Director, Ann Gow, temporarily stepped away from her Healthcare Improvement Scotland role and into the unknown as Nurse Director for the new NHS Louisa Jordan hospital at the Scottish Events Campus (SEC) in Glasgow. She tells us about the challenges of setting up a fully-functioning hospital in just three weeks – and how the staff, work programmes and culture of our organisation have helped. 

Around three weeks ago, I started a job unlike any other I’ve ever had. It wasn’t planned, I didn’t apply for it. There was no lengthy application form to fill or nerve wracking interview process to go through. It’s the kind of job I never imagined I’d be asked to do, not even in my wildest dreams. If anyone had ever suggested to me I’d be helping set up a hospital in a conference centre more used to JLS than NHS, and have just three weeks to do it, I’d have thought they were joking.

But now here we are. In the middle of a global pandemic that has made us all change the way we think about how we work and live our lives, we’ve set up the NHS Louisa Jordan at the SEC. And I couldn’t be prouder of all those who’ve contributed to it.

NHS Louisa Jordan, Glasgow

I was asked to help by Scotland’s Chief Nursing Officer Fiona McQueen, who chairs the Louisa Jordan’s Governance Board. With the full support of our chief executive and chair, I agreed to step away for a short time from Healthcare Improvement Scotland and help establish the new hospital.

A new job but with similar responsibilities

As nurse director, I’m part of the strategic executive team reporting to the Scottish Government’s Governance Board and have lead responsibility for nursing on the site. This responsibility includes levels of nurse staffing, systems to support provision of safe, effective and person-centred nursing care, patient safety, quality and learning and infection prevention and control. Although I’ve been a nurse director previously, and was chief nurse in acute services at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde before I joined Healthcare Improvement Scotland, this has been very different from any role that I’ve done before. Yet the core principles of nursing care and the needs of patients and staff remain the same, and my years in public health have been useful for working in a hospital focused on an infectious disease.

There are similarities to my regular job: I provide strategic nursing advice at executive level, I’ve helped build a great nursing team with a myriad of skills, and made sure we apply all the principles of quality, patient safety, healthcare acquired infection and governance that we in Healthcare Improvement Scotland apply within the NHS system.  Our culture of teamwork and trust is one that I’ve applied here in the Louisa Jordan, too. Our organisation has also provided support for improvement, learning, project management, HR and AHP leadership as NHS Louisa Jordan has been established.

“Working at such a pace has been very full on. The whole team have worked 12 hour days with no time off for the past three weeks. Yet the feeling that we were making a contribution, and the great team spirit not just with NHS staff but with construction contractors, architects and the SEC staff, has made it easy.”

Team spirit and learning from each other

Working at such a pace has been very full on. The whole team have worked 12 hour days with no time off for the past three weeks. Yet the feeling that we were making a contribution, and the great team spirit not just with NHS staff but with construction contractors, architects and the SEC staff, has made it easy. The build took two weeks from start to finish and it was amazing to watch the conference centre transform. The contract and procurement teams worked really closely with the clinical people on site to make sure it was fit for purpose in a very short period of time. The saddest thing for the whole team has been knowing we are planning an environment where patients will have little contact with their families and that staff in PPE need to find ways of comforting and building relationships with each other and patients when their faces are largely covered. We’ve learned from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s experiences and will be using donated iPads so patients can have virtual visiting with families.

We’ve also been learning from the experiences of colleagues at the other temporary hospitals across the UK, and have weekly calls with staff at the NHS Nightingale in London. Colleagues at the Dragon’s Heart Hospital (Ysbyty Calon Y Ddraig) in Cardiff have been helping us develop a learning and evaluation system which our Evidence and ihub colleagues are supporting and sharing to help other Scottish sites.

Putting a learning culture at the heart of Louisa Jordan

Probably the most important learning tools we have though are our nursing staff. Many of them have already been caring for patients with COVID-19. Most are experienced, so induction has focused on the areas that are different from the norm, whether due to the environment or the disease. The operational multi-disciplinary teams are deployed from NHS boards and most are currently working or recently retired. Many of the staff helping with the set-up phase stepped in from retirement or from organisations like ours, NHS National Services Scotland and Scottish Government at very short notice and are hugely experienced – we really couldn’t have got to where we are without them.

Nurse Director Ann Gow in the newly built NHS Louisa Jordan Hospital

All staff coming on site have volunteered to be there and have been massively enthusiastic. To help build these teams in such a short space of time, we’ve used Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s quality management system approach. This has helped place a learning culture at the heart of what we do, and really helped gel teams together. There has been a can-do attitude and mutual support from everyone on site right from the start. Operational staff coming in for induction have picked up on and are continuing this culture.

Now the hospital is operationally ready, , it will provide beds for patients who require ‘ward care’ as either a step down from ICU or where ICU isn’t  necessary. These patients may need oxygen and care for around 5-7 days in the first instance. We’ve also got 90 beds which can be used for critical care if needed.

“In many ways, my experience at Louisa Jordan has reinforced the importance of the work we do at Healthcare Improvement Scotland. There’s a lot of learning I’m hoping to bring back with me, too, around the speed of change and the focus on teamwork, as well as the need to have ongoing connections with the system in which we work.”

The safety net we hope we won’t need

NHS Louisa Jordan is here as a safety net. We hope we don’t need to be used, as it would indicate that the volume of people with the disease was greater than the current system could cope with. But if we’re needed, we can step in to make sure patients and staff are well cared for.

NHS Louisa Jordan, Glasgow

In many ways, my experience at Louisa Jordan has reinforced the importance of the work we do at Healthcare Improvement Scotland. There’s a lot of learning I’m hoping to bring back with me, too, around the speed of change and the focus on teamwork, as well as the need to have ongoing connections with the system in which we work. The relationships that have been built here will I’m sure endure and make working across our various organisations easier in future.

I’m really proud to be a part of what will hopefully be a once in a lifetime experience. On site we’ve all been really focused and driven by providing somewhere that would be a good environment to care for very distressed patients and a good environment for staff to work in. I’m pleased that I can use skills to “do my bit”, but still feel in awe of the others on the front line who are working in hospitals, the community and care homes every day. I‘m also proud to be doing this on behalf of Healthcare Improvement Scotland. Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, our organisation has played a key role in supporting the NHS battle to combat this virus, refocusing what we do and offering support to the system. This has been invaluable to me working at the Louisa Jordan, and the spirit of cooperation that has been shown by our staff with their health and social care colleagues only enhances our reputation.

Ann Gow is NMAHP Director with Healthcare Improvement Scotland and Nurse Director with NHS Louisa Jordan hospital.

More information

Visit the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website for information on our response to COVID-19.