Blue bench donated to Blackpool Victoria Hospital as thanks for life-saving efforts during pandemic

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A bright blue bench has been donated to Blackpool Victoria Hospital by four grateful people whose lives were affected by Covid-19.


The unveiling of the bench at Blackpool Victoria Hospital

The unveiling of the bench at Blackpool Victoria Hospital

Paramedic Sharon Riley-Clarke, her former police officer husband Paul Clarke, and their friends Steve and Helen Trainor donated the blue bench as a thank you to the doctors, nurses and other hospital staff who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic.

It was unveiled near the hospital’s outpatients department on Saturday.

Sharon, 54, who is based at the ambulance station on Waterloo Road, said: “Although we have all been working through Covid-19, we have all seen how exhausted the hospital staff are.

The key workers' bench is the first of its kind in the North WestThe key workers’ bench is the first of its kind in the North West

Sharon and Paul, 57, previously raised funds to install two Armed Forces memorial benches on Victoria Road in Cleveleys. The first bench, installed in 2016, features poppies and bees, and the second, which was installed in 2018 to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, features silhouettes of soldiers and bi-planes.

They, along with Steve and Helen, were inspired to raise money for another bench – this time for NHS key workers – after witnessing first hand the difficulties faced not only by doctors and nurses, but hospital cleaners and caterers.

“Steve was very poorly with pneumonia and Covid-19 and had to be hospitalised in Lancaster, and that has had a knock-on effect on his life. A lot of my colleagues have had Covid,” Sharon, who has been a paramedic for 25 years, said.

“It has been hard. A&D has been exceptionally busy. We an isolation area were we take potential coronavirus patients, so staff have been worked off their feet. The workload has increased.

“We have our own cleaning team at the hospital and as soon as we come in they jump up and spray the ambulance. Everything we use, everything we touch has to be cleaned.

“This bench is for all our key workers, and that includes our cleaning staff. It’s for everybody, from the doctors to the people in the canteen providing meals to the staff and the patients.”

She added: “I think the bench is beautiful. It’s so unique; it’s the first in the North West. The staff are pleased with it, and I think it’s appropriate to have somewhere nice to reflect over what has gone on over these past 18 months, and remember those we have lost during the pandemic. We have all lost friends, some of them quite young.”

Yvonne Widdows, deputy director of facilities at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals Trust, said: “We’d like to thank Sharon and all involved in making this possible. The bench is a lovely addition to the hospital and I’m sure will be appreciated by staff and patients alike.”

Another bench, in honour of all emergency service personnel including the police and coastguards, will be unveiled by the deputy mayor Paula Burdess at Gynn Square, Blackpool, next Tuesday at 11am.