HOSPITAL staff have praised the efforts of airline crew who are supporting them in the fight against Covid-19.

Run by 46 furloughed crew members from six different airlines, the Wing Lounge offers healthcare workers a space to relax between shifts.

Samantha Backway, a sleep specialist nurse redeployed to work with Covid-19 patients said: “It’s just lovely having somewhere different to go to talk to different people, from different walks of life, just for our wellbeing.

“We can just turn up, and if there’s room for us, they take us to a chair and offer us teas and coffees and biscuits.”

Running since June 4, the lounge sees between 70-80 visitors a day. All the crew members are trained in talking to colleagues in stressful situations and the lounges offers someone to talk to as well as a diversion from hospital work.

Samantha added: “This is a really nice place to be able to get away from what we’re doing on the wards and gives us something else to think about, and chat about, that isn’t nursing or Covid,” she said.

Samantha worked on a Covid ward for three months during the pandemic.

“It was challenging,” she said. “My children had to go and live with their dad while I was working there and I wasn’t able to help my usual patients.

“So it was lovely to know that the lounge was there, and that if you wanted to, you could just pop in,” she added.

The scheme is run through nationwide charity Project Wingman.

Pilot Tom Calland is the team leader in Swindon. He said: “Our idea to begin with was just to give NHS staff that first-class experience.

“One thing we found, early on in the pandemic, is that teams have been split up and so the doctors’ and nurses’ usual support network in terms of colleagues wasn’t there, because the knowledge and skills had been split around the different teams.

“We’ve been able to fill a bit of that void, and we found that staff have been coming to us to talk about stressful things in their day or problems they faced.

“Perhaps because either there wasn’t the usual faces around them to do that or they felt that it was unfair to burden their colleagues with their own stresses because everyone was going through so much.”

He said that the uniform had become trusted by staff as something they could turn to.

Tom added: “It’s been incredibly rewarding that we were able to be that outlet for people who have been really up against it and sometimes in unfamiliar territory.

“And it’s very inspiring and humbling to see people putting themselves first and in harm’s way to keep the rest of us safe.”