Supporting communities in Devon

Posted on: 23/03/2021

As our healthcare heroes rose to the challenge of Coronavirus, we connected a Nightingale Hospital in Exeter to the gas network in double quick time to support them.

Read on to find out more about what our team in Devon have been up to... 

Dave Murdoch

Dave Murdoch led the team at Wales & West Utilities which worked quickly to connect the Nightingale Hospital in Exeter to the local gas network.

Performance Manager, Dave, was part of the eight-strong team from the company who spent two days connecting the new supply which allowed the 116-bed NHS Nightingale hospital to benefit from mains gas.

The hospital, which was built in an industrial area of the city, was created to care for Covid-19 patients, but is now being utilised for cancer patients who are screened at the facility. 

The hospital was transformed from a former Homebase store into a hospital at Moor Lane, Sowton in just six weeks.

Dave explains:

“To transform the ex-retail unit into an NHS Hospital in six weeks involved a great deal of effort from all parties involved.

“We learnt about the project and our team worked hard to make sure the hospital had the mains gas supply it needed.

“Throughout the pandemic it has been vital that our healthcare system is as protected as it can be, and we are delighted to play a role in making sure this Nightingale Hospital was up and running and able to take patients, even if not in its originally anticipated role. At Wales & West Utilities we’re committed to keeping the gas flowing safely to homes, businesses, and vital infrastructure like hospitals.”

In response to the huge strain the NHS has been feeling during the pandemic, Wales & West Utilities completed the work free of change.

Jemima May

Our apprentices were mid-way through their theory and practical learning when the Coronavirus pandemic resulted in the UK-wide lockdown in March. With apprentice training usually split between college and practical experience, Plymouth’s Jemima May found herself in a situation which has since paid dividends to her learning.

Jemima was coming to the end of the first year of her apprenticeship – learning to look after the control systems of the gas network, when lockdown was announced. Before Covid her week was usually split between one day in college and four days on site. With her college making the decision to shut, but her having completed all her assessment work, she decided to make the most of the opportunity.

Jemima, 19, explains:

“I only had a practical assessment to complete, so college agreed that I could go into do this at some point when lockdown restrictions eased so I found myself with an extra day in the week.

“I decided to put the time to good use and spoke to my manager at Wales & West Utilities, who agreed I could spend the full week on site.”

Jemima started shadowing an experienced gas engineer, putting her learning into practice.

“Having the extra day to learn the trade has been fantastic. I am now undertaking my NVQ, which doesn’t require me to go into college. The various lockdowns and the pandemic have been really hard – especially for young people – so I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to fill my time and continue to learn.

“It’s been a really challenging time but has allowed me to build my experience. I’m pleased to have played a small part in keeping the gas flowing to homes, businesses and essential infrastructure like hospitals.

“As things start to return to normal, I’m looking forward to building on what I’ve learned in the last year and taking the next step in my career.”

Amanda Melluish

Amanda Melluish, an Operational Assistant, has been working throughout the pandemic but quickly adapted for homeworking after the initial lockdown in March 2020 was announced.

Amanda, who usually works out of our Exeter depot, explains: “When lockdown happened, we immediately switched from office to home working. Our systems allow us to work from anywhere so there was a seamless transition.

“Lockdown has been tough – I live on my own and working in the depot once a week doing the things I can’t do at home has really helped my wellbeing: it’s all about balance.

“Working from home is OK, but I can’t wait to get back to the buzz of the office. I miss people - my friends and colleagues - and am looking forward to feeling normal and safe around people again.”