Solent NHS TrustHigh quality community and mental health services

A review of

'An audience with…' Beth and Natalie

By Elliot Woods, Communications Assistant


Solent NHS Trust’s first ever ‘An audience with…’ started on Tuesday 20 March 2018.

This is a new and exciting concept, not only for myself but for most of my colleagues. The sessions pave the way for a new, and innovative, way of being able to share experiences, knowledge and ideas – empowering us all to make a difference.

Bethany Carter, Infection Prevention Specialist, got the night underway.

Bethany was part of the UK Government’s official response to Ebola – called ‘OP GRITROCK’. This was the official military, and Public Health England’s, intervention.

Bethany’s words were inspiring. ‘How amazing’, I thought, ‘That I’m even in the same room as someone, who was recognised by the Government as qualified and skilled enough, to help to contain, detect, treat and defeat the Ebola virus’.

Bethany worked in a state-of-the-art Government treatment facility in Sierra Leone (see above). Over £420m was spent on the UK’s efforts to combat Ebola, and it’s utterly inspiring that I learned about Bethany’s experience and contribution to that.

Bethany concluded her talk by sharing with us the lessons she had learned and taken away from her experience of Sierra Leone: preparedness and an early response to an outbreak are essential, in trying to contain a potential outbreak.

She also taught of us the essential values she picked up, of working together, community engagement and education. Without any of these, Bethany would have found it incredibly challenging to carry out her duties. These are all values that we can emulate, apply to our jobs and look up to, here at Solent – especially that of community engagement and working together.

Ultimately, Bethany reminded us to ‘Remember the basics!’ – That:

Natalie, also an Infection Prevention Nurse, began her half of the evening straight after Beth.

I thought we were honoured to be able to listen to two such humanitarian, medically accomplished talents!

Natalie’s place of work in Sierra Leone was not quite so ‘glamorous’. She performed her duties in a Sierra Leone Government hospital where basics like water, electricity and resources were extremely scarce.

I thought it was inspirational that Natalie was still so committed to her role, despite such adverse and challenging conditions! Healthcare is not free in Sierra Leone. This includes everything – a patient will have to pay for the gloves the nurse wears on her hands, to syringes, etc. And to add to the problems – rats were all over the place! 72% of Sierra Leone lives on less than £0.70 a day. This is an indication of the excessive levels of poverty Sierra Leone faces.

It is safe to say, that before the outbreak of Ebola, infection control was virtually non-existent. Beth and Natalie’s commitment to reversing this is nothing short of fearless and heroic. Hygiene and sanitation were but a distant memory. Ebola was undoubtedly a wake-up call, for the whole world.

Natalie’s work focussed on building a sustainable infection prevention system, for the local staff. This involved training and mentoring hundreds of healthcare workers, to become specialists. This is because of the long-term goal, and that was to keep people safe. You cannot do this without sustainability. Training the staff, was made even more challenging, by the fact half of the staff were illiterate – and even the ones that were literate, were still illiterate to some degree.

The goal was to build a capacity of local staff, so that, once the project ended, infection prevention control still continued. This happened by way of gradually handing things over to the local staff. Fortunately, significant improvements were made towards the end, compared to at the start of the infection prevention control project.

Much like Bethany, Natalie concluded with the message that ‘adaptability is important, sometimes the basics are crucial’.

Overall, ‘An audience with…’ Bethany and Natalie was an absolutely humbling and inspiring occasion. It was made all the more special by the small, yet special turnout. Thank you to everyone, who came along to Solent’s first ever ‘An audience with…’ – Bethany, Natalie and you made a difference.