Hospital staff praised for their response to a summer of smashes on the M6

The scene on the M6 after a lorry crashed into a bridge in July - preventing hospital staff from getting to work.
The scene on the M6 after a lorry crashed into a bridge in July - preventing hospital staff from getting to work.
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Staff at the Royal Preston Hospital have been praised for the way they responded to a series of accidents which closed the M6 motorway over the summer - and prevented some of them from getting to work.

A board meeting of the trust which runs the Sharoe Green Road site heard how the crashes - which happened within days of each other at the end of July - had the potential to cripple services, because so many hospital workers were caught in the gridlock.

Staff at the Royal Preston used social media and messaging apps to swap shifts at short notice - and keep the hospital functioning.

Staff at the Royal Preston used social media and messaging apps to swap shifts at short notice - and keep the hospital functioning.

READ MORE >>> The day Lancashire came to a complete standstill after a lorry hit a bridge on the M6

But members were told that staff swung into action on social media and messaging apps - firstly, to make colleagues aware of the problem and then to offer practical help for those who found themselves stranded.

Faith Button, Interim Director of Performance at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, said: “Staff were immediately using their own contacts with each other to ensure shifts were covered.

"And staff who should have finished work offered to stay on - some of whom were incredibly tired after a long night shift - to fill in for colleagues who were unable to get to work because of traffic on surrounding roads,” she added.

The meeting heard that the actions of staff - which included swapping shifts at short notice - were vital at a time when the hospital was already dealing with one of its most serious alerts, known as an ‘OPEL 4’, because of the incidents themselves.

The first - which shut the M6 in both directions shortly after dawn on 26th July - was the result of a heavy goods vehicle hitting a bridge. It caused chaos on roads around Preston for much of the day.

Less than a week later, both carriageways were closed again during the evening rush hour, after a lorry overturned heading northbound and a series of crashes followed on the southbound side.

READ MORE >>> M6 closed for the second time in a week after another serious accident

Alistair Campbell, a non-executive director of the trust, asked what lessons could be learned in the event of similar incidents which “vastly affect the running of this hospital”.

But Adrian Griffiths, chief operating officer, admitted that the trust was always vulnerable to motorway closures, “because Preston is where Preston is”.

Speaking after the meeting, Faith Button praised the “incredible goodwill” of staff for acting selflessly to provide the cover that the hospital needed.