When Leanne Cain-James was asked to pull together daily spreadsheets about staffing levels in Oxford Health’s community hospitals, she worked 18 days straight, 10 hours a day. No wonder her manager calls her a superhero.

A former RAF Corporal, Leanne’s mission was to help co-ordinate the trust response to the evolving COVID-19 situation.

She gathered data about staffing levels and patient numbers in the trust’s six community hospitals, ward by ward, including detail about how many were off, how many redeployed in clinical and administrative roles, and so on.

“I was taking part in the community hospitals briefing call each day and making sure that the information was accurate. It was imperative that the data captured on both patients and staff in relation to Covid-19 was exact. I was very mindful of data integrity,” she says.

“This was quite challenging given the timeframe and the geography of the wards. We had to respond to pressures by ward, which were literally changing by the minute!” she says.

 “But I’m not sure I qualify for as a superhero! This is my normal role,” she demurs. “There was just extra co-ordination needed to ensure the wards are staffed safely and we were ready to react to higher demand.”

She adds: “With the pandemic everyone is working to higher capacity. We are very lucky in community hospitals to have such a dedicated leadership team who are very supportive and encouraging. They recognise and appreciate all our hard work.”

Leanne could in theory work from home but she prefers to be at the Bicester Community Hospital.

“I think it is important to be there for people, to be calm and reassure them. Some staff may feel anxious. It’s natural: we are at a high risk situation and you want to protect yourself and your patients and your family.”

When she and her colleagues are nowadays referred as ‘front line’, Leanne certainly knows what that’s like as she served as a corporal at RAF Benson and her service saw her deployed to Dakar and the Falkland Islands.

 After she had her children, she came to work for the NHS.

“I always knew that I wanted to work in public service; that I wanted to make a difference,” she says. She has been at Oxford Health since 2008.

“Nothing has compared to Covid,” she says. “Everyone is affected by it, regardless of their role. We are doing everything we can for our patients. Because of our visitor policy they don’t have relatives coming in and they can’t meet fellow patients in the day room. We try to make a difference with TV, mobile phones and activity packs for which we are very grateful to the Creating with Care team.”

She is also grateful for how communities and businesses have come together to show their appreciation.

“I want to say thank you for the charity boxes, Easter eggs, food parcels, donations of laundry bags and all other donations, help and support. We really are feeling the love.”

But when our talk turns to her children – 9, 12 and 14 years old – Leanne is moved to tears.

“I feel like the world’s worst mother because they are at home and I am at work,” she says.

“I wonder if I am compromising my loved ones while helping others. My children watch the news; they understand what’s going on. On Thursday they clap for carers and say they are clapping for me. It’s so sweet. I haven’t been there for them, but they are so supportive.”

“Personally, I would love to know when this will end!” she sighs. “But I hope that when it does end, the kindness and thoughtfulness we have seen, remains.”