As regular readers of my blog will know, I’m always keen to champion our unsung heroes at both The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust.
And in a new series of features, I’m aiming to shine the spotlight on some of those colleagues without whom the hospitals would not be able to function.
First up is Neil Williams, a Porter at New Cross Hospital who has done the job for five years. Working a three-way rolling shift pattern of four long days, four days off and four nights, the 57-year-old father of four and former painter and decorator loves his job so much, he says he wishes he’d have done it 20 years ago.
One of a team of approximately nine general porters, Neil and his colleagues certainly get their steps in – walking around 10 miles a day, covering the whole of the New Cross site.
“Our job is moving patients, documents or equipment from one end of the hospital to another,” he says. “It’s a big area and can be physically hard work, so it certainly keeps us fit.”
Part of the enjoyment for Neil is the varied nature of the work and having the ability to ‘read the room’.
“I really enjoy it, even though you’re sometimes dealing with people at their lowest point or they can be very poorly,” he adds. “So in that way it keeps you very grounded and you’ve got to be on a par with their moods.
“Some patients might be scared and very quiet and they might not want to talk, whereas others want to hear some reassurance and to have a laugh, so it’s about making that assessment and then, if they want to talk, putting people’s minds at ease.
“The job is never the same two days running – you never know what’s coming in from one shift to the next. One minute you might be talking to a doctor or a nurse then the next, having the ‘craic’ with a patient or one of the porters about the Wolves match on a Saturday.
“It’s very rewarding and I wish I’d have done it 20 years ago.”
Neil, whose wife Amanda works in catering in maternity, sees people of all walks of life and different circumstances, backgrounds and age groups. But he revealed one of his most memorable encounters came with one of the youngest people he’d met.
“One of the most surreal experiences was during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he recalls. “A lady had just had a baby and we were all dressed in full personal protective equipment (PPE) – mask, gown, gloves, visors – and we went to move the mum and baby out of the room and the baby was just looking at us.
“I wondered what the baby was thinking, seeing us all there looking like spacemen or aliens. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
As one of the parts of the workforce that does not receive the full glare of the spotlight, Neil says porters are treated well.
Working unsociable shifts, Neil doesn’t get a lot of time to himself, but the avid Wolves supporter loves to go to Molineux to watch his team with son Luca, 16, and the pair have season tickets in the Steve Bull Stand. Thoughts of work are never far away.
“I love the job and one of the reasons is the people I work with. A lot of the porters – guys and the girls – socialise together, so we enjoy going for a pint. It’s a very friendly team.”