Dr Karen Dunderdale

Director of Nursing, United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust

Dr Karen Dunderdale is the Director of Nursing at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust


By Director of Nursing, United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust

Column by ULHT’s Dr Karen Dunderdale, Director of Nursing/Deputy CEO and Director of Infection Prevention and Control


The change in the weather marks the beginning of a very busy time for the NHS.

With colder temperatures comes the increase in cases of flu and norovirus, as well as COVID – which is why we all need to play our part in protecting ourselves and each other.

At this time of year norovirus, or the winter vomiting and diarrhoea bug, is common. It is highly infectious and easily spread through close contact with someone, or by touching surfaces which have germs on them or eating food prepared or handled by someone who has norovirus.

Symptoms are typically, feeling sick, diarrhoea, being sick and can be associated with a high temperature, aching arms and legs and headache. Symptoms usually start one-two days after being infected and usually you will start to feel better after two-three days. Washing your hands frequently with soap and water is the best way to stop it spreading. Alcohol hand gels do not kill norovirus.

Another infectious bug is the influenza (flu) virus. For the majority of people, flu is unpleasant but not life-threatening. However, it can be very serious for those groups at risk of developing complications including people with weakened immune systems, as well as those with underlying conditions such as liver, lung or renal disease, heart problems or diabetes and pregnant women.

Flu is very infectious and easily spread to other people. You’re more likely to give it to others in the first five days. Flu is spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.
To reduce the risk of spreading flu ensure you wash your hands often with warm water and soap and use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze then bin used tissues as quickly as possible.

The flu vaccination is offered to every ULHT member of staff free of charge. Members of the public can contact their GP to find out more about how to get a flu vaccine. The vaccination is free if you are aged over 65 years, are pregnant, have a long term condition (such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease or multiple sclerosis) or are a carer.

As COVID is still with us, I would encourage those who are eligible to get the free vaccinations, and booster when they are contacted to do so. This has been a vital step for the country in the fight against COVID and in protecting ourselves and those around us.

Good hand hygiene can also help to limit the spread of infections and there are some simple steps that we can take to help stop viruses spreading. These include washing your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food. If you’re in a hospital, pay attention to hand hygiene notices such those asking you to use alcohol-based hand rub upon entering and leaving the ward. Also continue to wear a mask whilst in NHS healthcare settings.

People worried about prolonged symptoms should contact NHS 111 or ring their GP, not visit their surgery. They will be able to provide advice for people who are at greater risk from dehydration from diarrhoea and vomiting, such as young children or the elderly.

How to practice good hand hygiene

  • Ensure you regularly use alcohol hand rub available on all wards to clean your hands, especially before touching patients
  • Wash your hands with soap and water when anyone has diarrhoea, to prevent the spread of infections such as norovirus which can be a problem during the winter months
  • If you have symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting do not visit the hospitals until you have been clear of these symptoms for at least 48 hours

Dr Karen Dunderdale is the Director of Nursing at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust

By Director of Nursing, United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust

Over the years, we have had somewhat of a reputation when it comes to not being able to fill nurse vacancies within the Trust.

Back in February, our vacancy position was a focus of discussion due to the fact that we had over 200 full time healthcare support worker (HCSW) vacancies.

In response to this the trust undertook a recruitment campaign with the aim of reducing our HCSW vacancies to zero and recruiting 100 registered nurses from overseas, by the end of April.

The actions we took to achieve this included:

  • Offering bank staff permanent positions.
  • We enlisted the help of a recruitment agency to assist us in identifying candidates who had not previously worked in healthcare, to support them in applying for a position here at ULHT. The recruitment process was made very easy and the candidates were supported with a dedicated induction programme. This resulted in 225 posts being offered and now means that the Trust has a zero vacancy position for HCSW at this time.
  • International nurse recruitment was already doing well within the Trust with over 30 nurses recruited between August 2020 and January 2021. The Trust agreed to recruit 100 international nurses in a concentrated recruitment drive from February to April. Our aspirations were high but we achieved our goal – although there have been some delays experienced due to the COVID pandemic and quarantine requirements.
  • We continue to support nursing career development which was devised to support staff who wish to develop their careers, and makes it possible, using the apprenticeship programmes available, to develop from nursing cadet up to advanced clinical practitioner.
  • We have identified the need to support two cohorts of staff through the trainee nursing associate programme at the University of Lincoln each year as well as the opportunity to progress from registered nursing associate/assistant practitioner/nursery nurse to become a registered nurse through an apprenticeship route, again through the University of Lincoln. This is an example of how we value the ability to grow and develop our own staff and commit to recruiting from within our services and local areas.
  • We continue to develop our relationships with our student nurses, and we are currently in the process of offering jobs to more than 70 students who are due to qualify in September.

This is a great success story, and one which should make a real difference for our patients and our colleagues.

There is still more work to do and we also need to consider why nursing colleagues want to leave our Trust and what actions we can take to encourage nurses to stay.

This will be a focus of efforts in the next year. We will continue to make sure that we have the right staff, in the right place with the right skills.

A career in nursing is massively rewarding and as a nurse of 30+ years it is a privilege to be able to care for people who need our help. If you want to find out more about working for ULHT, check out our website.

Dr Karen Dunderdale is the Director of Nursing at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust

By Director of Nursing, United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust

It is common knowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic has put immense pressure on the health service across the UK, and hospitals in particular.

During the major surges in COVID-19 cases over the last year we, like lots of other hospitals, had to make some very difficult decisions to cancel some clinics, operations and procedures to safeguard our resources to care for seriously ill COVID patients. This was done in the interests of keeping our patients and staff safe.

Here in Lincolnshire, we have made every effort to continue to deliver care to everyone who needs it through this pandemic, and having planned surgery continue on the Grantham site has helped us to do this. However, there are some who have waited longer for care than they might previously have done.

Now, as the vaccination programme rolls out and we start to see some national restrictions eased, we are turning our attention to re-instating services that have been affected by COVID, and getting appointments booked in for those who have been waiting.

In United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, we are making the shift to managing COVID not as a pandemic, but as an infection which is endemic in our society. We are changing how we care for COVID patients, so that they can be cared for in just the same way as those with any other infectious disease – something we are already well-versed at doing with high standards of infection prevention and control practices.

We constantly share examples with other hospitals to ensure we are all making effective use of isolation and infection prevention and control procedures, so that all of our patients can be reassured about the safety of accessing hospital services.

I hear that there are people in our communities who are scared to go into hospital, or attend appointments, because of the risk of COVID. This saddens me, because I know that means patients who desperately need our care are not accessing it. We would be keen to talk to individuals to offer reassurance to help them access the care they need.

My job is to restore that confidence in our hospitals, and to reassure the people of Lincolnshire that our hospitals are safe environments for everyone.

I want everyone to know that they can safely use our hospitals, and should access NHS services when they need them.

Dr Karen Dunderdale is the Director of Nursing at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust