Will you Support the Frontline?

By Chris Cornford Mar 9, 2021

A major new initiative to support NHS staff and thank them for their work during the pandemic has launched on the Island this week.

‘Support the Frontline’ is the brainchild of Island residents, Andrew Palmer, and former High Sheriff and founder of Isle of Wight Day, Robin Courage. They realised that staff at the Island’s only hospital needed practical and moral support whilst chatting to a doctor about his experiences during the pandemic.

They have been working with St Mary’s Hospital and local businesses getting ready to deliver a freshly cooked, nutritious meal to NHS staff at the end of their long 12-hour shifts. The meals will be prepared and packed by local chefs and handed out by volunteers from a refrigerated trailer loaned by Vectis Refrigeration, ready to reheat in an oven or microwave.

While there is good news about vaccinations and falling infection rates, the crisis is far from over for frontline workers. They have been working flat out for months and, when the pandemic is finally over, they will face a new set of problems. Unprecedented waiting lists and the impact of untreated conditions will put them under more pressure as they return to their usual roles, with no prospect of a holiday or break any time soon.

The first meal distribution for Support the Frontline took place on Wednesday (March 3). It was a storming success, with more than 100 meals given out to staff as they finished 12-hour shifts at St Mary’s Hospital.

Andrew and Robin took part in the first shift, handing out the free meals from 7.30pm as staff headed for home. With a choice of four nutritious dishes, all lovingly prepared by the chefs at the Garlic Farm and Bembridge Sailing Club, the service proved popular with hungry NHS workers.

Andrew said: “Doctors and nurses alike said it would be a welcome treat to get home and heat up a nice meal rather than having to cook from scratch. Many of them said they would be passing the word around, so we will need to build up our daily meal supply.”

Robin added: “We have been really thrilled with how much support we’ve already received from local businesses and people, all the work and organization to get to this stage has really been worth it. Staff were pleased to receive the food, but even more touched by the sentiments behind it. One nurse told me that she lived alone and, knowing that Islanders she had never met appreciated the long hours she’s put in over the last year, really made it all worthwhile. People are being generous, but we need to raise funds to keep the campaign going.”

Andrew was back on duty at 7.30am yesterday morning and a number of people came over as they went into work to tell him how much they enjoyed it. He said: “The whole idea of the campaign is for us to thank them – but instead they were thanking us. It’s great to know it’s appreciated. I was particularly moved by an ICU cleaner who went back to get his parking money as a donation.”

An Isle of Wight NHS Trust spokesman said: “A huge thank you to everyone involved in the Support the Frontline initiative that is bringing a smile and delicious meals to our dedicated staff to enjoy at home. Our Trust is still responding to the impact of the pandemic, one year on, and this generosity is a wonderful boost.”

Support the Frontline is now raising funds to purchase ingredients and packaging for the local chefs and kitchens who are donating their time, facilities, and inspiration.

You can find out more about the campaign and make a donation at www.supportthefrontline.info.