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Polaris medical's central role in the Covid-19 Pandemic

Fri 10th Jul 2020

Our affiliates Polaris Medical have been kept very busy during the Covid-19 pandemic. Read below an account of how they have been helping throughout the crisis:

Rather than the disease that gave it a name, Covid-19 has come to represent a period in time that has affected all our lives. The virus has been referred to by many names Corona, Covid-19, Cov-19 or just simply the virus.

At Polaris we have come to know the virus by its official name SARS CoV-19 and sadly, it has been keeping us very busy.

Traditionally Polaris Medical is a company with three sides, Film & Television, Training and NHS support. We are one of only a handful of private medical providers who attend 999 calls on behalf of NHS Ambulance Trusts and the only independent ambulance service in the country to be rated as “outstanding” by the health regulator The Care Quality Commission (CQC) who regulate all healthcare in the UK.

As the world began to lock down and the infection rate in the UK began to climb our workload with the NHS began to increase and the requests to expand our capacity became a daily call. Our Ambulance crews attended more and more patients with the same symptoms of fever and cough and in doing so started donning PPE with increasing regularity. In the film and television industry our medics on set and in construction were also seeing the increase in coughs and colds.

On the 23rd March, the country went into lockdown. The studios went silent, the streets were empty, and everyone stayed at home. However, our staff that had finished work on the film sets yesterday began to arrive for work today. Our entire film and television division was transferred to support the emergency work attending 999 calls. Our head office was closed, and only essential staff were permitted to attend. The battle to fight Covid-19 had begun. The way we worked had changed and all resources were officially given over to the NHS.

Over the following weeks and months our Ambulances were deployed in London and across the southeast attending thousands of patients with Covid-19. Our staff are trained to the highest of standards and are regularly updated to maintain the requirements of their governing body the HCPC and of the health care regulator the CQC. Nothing however had prepared them for the environment and working conditions they were now practicing in. Long established guidance had been changed, protocols had been adapted and procedures had been altered to reflect what was known about the virus (and that was changing daily, sometimes even hourly).

Different levels of PPE had been introduced to be worn when performing different procedures and the reality that social distancing in an ambulance was a physical impossibility had begun to set in. The increase of severely ill patients that our crews were seeing was becoming hard to handle and having to take patients to hospital without allowing a relative or loved one to accompany them was as much a struggle for our crews as it was the families of the patients they were attending.

Our crews were no more immune to the virus than the patients they were taking to hospital and although they used there protective shielding in the correct way some became sick, some became critical. News would reach us of colleagues that had lost their fight with the virus. Fear had become a real and palpable part of our ambulance crew’s life at work and at home. Some of our staff did not go home for fear of passing the virus to their families and chose to stay at specialist locations set up for health care staff so they could carry on working.

And carry on working they did!

During this pandemic Polaris has provided over 50 ambulance shifts per day to the London Ambulance service, South Central Ambulance Service and East of England Ambulance Service. We have provided resources to the Thames Valley Air Ambulance and have had 15 Ambulances on standby for the London Nightingale. We have supported GP practises and Hot Hubs.

Our staff have worked tirelessly day and night in difficult circumstances working through their own fear and anxieties to provide care and render aid to those who need it. They have treated over 10’000 patients, travelled over 360’000 miles, and used 600’000 individual items of PPE. The staff that became sick have got better, they have returned to work, and they are out there again doing what they do best. We are immensely proud of them all.

Covid-19 is here to stay for a while, and we have all had to adapt and make changes to the way we live and work. The lockdown is not over yet, but the slow reopening of the economy has started and hopefully a return to work in the Filming and Television industry is not too far away. We have started to prepare for this and are looking at safe ways to return with the measures of social distancing in place.

In line with Public guidance from NHS England Polaris have been in discussions with Medical and Health care professionals to draw on our experience of the creative media industry and combine this with the knowledge we have of dealing actively with Covid-19 cases to bring together guidance on safe return to filming in the new norm.