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Behind the Scenes at ellenor

Wendy Lidbury-Bunsell started at hospice charity, ellenor, 14 years ago as an Admin Assistant and hasn’t looked back since. She soon progressed to being the PA to the Head of Support Services, and in 2008 took on her current role as Facilities and Procurement Co-ordinator. Her hard work and dedication ensure the smooth, uninterrupted daily running of hospice services.

“I could never think of working for a corporate organisation again. I feel very passionate about ellenor and what we do, and extremely proud to be part of what the hospice stands for.”

- Wendy

The list of Wendy’s responsibilities at ellenor is impressive indeed. She was asked to complete a hand-over document recently in case she was unable to work due to Covid restrictions, and it was 20 pages long!

Procurement, contract negotiations, contractor management, maintenance, repairs and leasehold improvements are all part of Wendy’s busy remit. She manages the charity’s fleet of vehicles, co-ordinates its medical device assets and is responsible for emergency action planning.

For the past twelve months, an overhaul of medical devices has taken up the majority of her time. Vital equipment like nebulisers, syringe drivers, beds, hoists, and thermometers all needed to be properly maintained. The health and safety aspect of Wendy’s job is paramount.

On top of an ever-changing and fluctuating workload, the pandemic has led to a completely different way of working for Wendy and her colleagues at ellenor.

One Big Family

She said: “Walking around the ward and checking the facilities used to be a big part of my role, but now only our maintenance supervisor has access as we are restricting movements around the building.

“We’re like a big family here, so it was particularly difficult for staff who were furloughed or working from home. Those of us who were still coming in felt like we were rattling around, although we have all got to know each other really well.

“We were all used to meeting patients and getting to know them and their families, and there were always groups for day patients. There was always something going on. Luckily, our Wellbeing Services are slowly returning to the hospice.”

As well as ensuring the hospice buildings in Northfleet are secure and well maintained, Wendy is responsible for the Swanscombe office and ellenor’s 13 retails shops including Special Treats located in Darent Valley Hospital.

The charity aims to raise £1.6m income every year through its shops, but for most of the past 18 months they have been closed. This has proved a logistical challenge for the ellenor Facilities Team.

During Lockdown, our storage facilities were crammed full with donations and when they shops first re-opened they were brimming with new stock. 

She said: “During lockdown so many people have been using their time at home to have a good clear out. I deal with emails that come in every day from people offering clothes and furniture. I explained that we are unable to take them right now but ask them to think of us again as soon as the Covid restrictions are lifted.”

Donate Now:

Donate your unwanted clothes, books, toys and much more to your local ellenor shop today.

For a few months last summer, it was all hands-on deck to get retail outlets up and running again, but frustratingly they soon had to shut-up-shop again. Thankfully, Special Treats has remained open as it sells essential items.

Wendy said: “We still had to visit our shops every week, to check security and maintenance, and for insurance purposes. There is so much work to do behind the scenes, even things like reducing gas and electricity direct debits while the shops are closed.”

Looking to the future, Wendy is hoping now that restrictions are easing, small groups of ellenor day patients will be able to meet and socialise again, enjoying therapies and activities like craft groups and listening to music.

She said: “One of the most important things is getting patients back in for one-to-one counselling. The hospice was completely closed to visitors at the beginning of last year, but when restrictions were lifted in the summer each patient was able to have two dedicated visitors. That was lovely for the relatives, especially if the patient had been in hospital before that and they hadn’t been able to see them at all.”

Preparing Offices for Returning Staff

The next big challenge for Wendy and the Facilities Team was when ellenor staff began to return to work once restrictions eased.

“Offices needed to be logistically changed to accommodate the amount of people coming back into the building, depending on what guidelines are still in place,” she said. “From a facilities point of view, it was an enormous task.”

This challenge was met with Wendy’s usual enthusiasm and finely-honed organisational skills.