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The big question: What are the most positive things to come out if the pandemic for you?

This month we ask “What are the most positive things to come out of the pandemic for you?”

Sue Alexander

Principal Biomedical Scientist and Pathology Services Manager
The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

Whilst a lot of negatives have been obvious (no shopping trips, limited travel and lockdowns), there are some positive points. I never realised I took travel to be an automatic “right”. My adventures were limited to trips to Europe last year and I will forever treasure and appreciate long-haul travel.

Whilst as a microbiologist, life was frantic last spring; the Trust needing to process samples for COVID testing in a laboratory without any established molecular techniques resulted in several gains: we had charity funding to pay for two Cepheid rapid testing platforms and new laboratories established to house them. There were also funds for a mass PCR testing suite and additional staffing.  

I had wanted more microbiological safety cabinets across the diagnostic and research laboratories and have been granted funding for about 10, dealing with some pre-existing issues as well as supporting handling of COVID samples. I should say the Royal Marsden is very well supported by charity money and I realise this is a privilege not available to all.

I am making more of an effort to keep in close touch with my team, as working from home and online meetings are not the same as face-to-face. We managed a Christmas Pathology management meeting that was a riot with Christmas outfits and bounteous bonhomie. Finally the vaccine roll-out has been a triumph with promise for freedom again. I don’t think I want to do this again, though.


Jo Horne

Consultant Healthcare Scientist
University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

During the last 12 months it would be understandable to focus on the negatives and professional and personal challenges encountered. But, when you look closely, there have been many positive changes too.

I think the implementation of virtual meetings has been incredible. Balancing roles for my NHS organisation, as well as my other professional interests, is challenging, especially when you spend lots of time travelling to and from meetings. Being able to join a meeting from my office with collaborators from across my organisation, the UK, and the world, is brilliant, especially when we see the same outcomes as we would from a face-to-face meeting that would take one or two days away from my NHS work. Not only is this efficient, but with fewer of us travelling, it should also have a positive impact on the environment, .  

I am encouraged that we are now understanding the merits of flexible working and serious work is being done to support staff wellbeing, inclusion and diversity. Not just via tick-box exercises, but by fundamentally reassessing and addressing the culture within our organisations. I think there is now better understanding that it is the people who make organisations successful, and to get the best out of our people we must level the playing field and provide everyone with the required support - for health and wellbeing, flexible and innovative working, as well as an authentic focus on issues, such as equity, diversity and bias.


Masuma Jahen

Specialist Biomedical Scientist
North Bristol NHS Trust

The pandemic put a stop to any semblance of normality and put things into perspective for me. Simple activities, such as going for a walk and appreciating nature, or doing Zoom workouts are things that have helped me in staying connected to other people and put my mental and physical health first.

I found myself able to spend quality time with family members in my household bubble and discover new lockdown culinary skills. I re-evaluated the things I prioritised in my life and admitted that it is okay to take breaks and invest time in my wellbeing. I am fortunate to be able to go into work and contribute to providing a healthcare service. Others are not able to go into work and it is important to remember that, despite the collective struggle of everyone going through the pandemic, we are getting through this together and developing a stronger community.

Small gestures of community spirit in my neighbourhood include helping elderly neighbours with their grocery shopping.

On a wider scale, restaurants donated meals so that NHS staff working in the hospital could enjoy hot meals free of charge. These small but significant actions and tokens of appreciation reinforce the fact that we really are in this together. Sometimes it is easy to overlook the little things with the hustle and bustle of a busy life, but the pandemic changed all of this and has demonstrated how gestures of kindness can make the biggest of differences. 

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Image credit | iStock

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