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"You never knew what was going to happen next" recalls speech and language therapist

A Hywel Dda speech and language therapist shares how COVID-19 “turned everything upside down” as preparations had to be made quickly in response to pandemic.

Mererid Davies, a paediatric speech and language therapist based in the Ceredigion area speaks of learning new skills to support hospital staff in Hywel Dda University Health Board’s new podcast series. 

Mererid and her colleagues were sent home from work during a two-day course when the pandemic hit. This meant they quickly had to adapt to technology like Zoom and MSTeams to start immediate work from home.

“Everyone at that time thought we've got two weeks to catch up on paperwork, because this will only last about two weeks, I think that's what the whole world believed at that time.

“I was lucky in a way that new integrated centres had been built in Aberaeron and Cardigan and we as staff were working from those centres. We did have the necessary technology to be able to work from home, so we were very lucky. We were able to start immediately working from home and do any work that was necessary.”

Mererid works mostly in the profound needs team, working with children in their homes, schools, nurseries and more all over Ceredigion. Furthermore, with children that have swallowing and eating problems.

“We are part of the National Health Service, and in our contracts it says that if a pandemic hits, we must all step up to support our co-workers in the hospital. But obviously because we work in the community, we work in a completely different way.

“We all had the call that maybe the therapies would have to stop, and we would have to go in perhaps to the field hospitals, or the hospitals within Hywel Dda to support our co-workers. Then we were trying to work out how we were going to work with children and their families virtually. That was something that we as a department had a very short time to try and work out.”

During lockdown Mererid and her team completed skills and care training in Aberystwyth to learn what is done by colleagues in the hospital, preparing them for the field hospitals if needed.

“A lot of preparation work was done in the health service, because you never knew what was going to happen next. I've been in paediatrics since I left university 12 years ago. I then had the opportunity to go in to Bronglais and upskill, in a way, with the adults who had eating and swallowing problems there.

“Because we are members of the Health Professionals Council, that meant that we had insurance to be able to vaccinate people.”

COVID-19 statistics in Ceredigion are now rising, and with the easing of lockdown restrictions the service has seen an increase with referrals, with different speech and language and also mental health problems.  

“We are ready for a very busy September. We hope that we won't have to go back into lockdown and this difficult period for our families and children.

“Maybe it's something that we must live with like flu or cold. If people aren't becoming ill, and suffering from long COVID and dying from the disease, I think it's something that we can deal with in our communities.”

Mererid’s podcast message to colleagues: “It is always important that people feel part of the team and that they're being appreciated. Being thanked, really does make people feel appreciated. I think it's important that continues now, and that we feel like a Hywel Dda team moving forward and that everyone from every part of the health service feels important,” can be accessed here: Podlediadau Hywel Dda Podcasts: Mererid Davies (