Is it a bus or a plane? Airline volunteers give Bognor Regis hospital staff a first-class break

A bus appeared at Bognor Regis War Memorial Hospital this week offering support to the NHS from volunteers from the airling industry.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 11:45 am

The Project Wingman mobile wellbeing lounge – a specially converted double decker bus, known as Wellbee – ‘landed’ on Monday, March 15, and will be on site until Sunday.

Staffed entirely by volunteers, who are all current or former aircrew, the lounge offers NHS staff at the hospital, which is run by Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, a comfortable, relaxing space to take their break.

It is open from 9.45am until 5.15pm each day, and the Project Wingman volunteers are on hand to offer a warm welcome, hot and cold drinks, snacks, digital newspapers and magazines, as well as the chance for a friendly chat.

The lounge is designed to offer an airline-style first class experience to anyone working for the NHS.

Project Wingman was started at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic to enable furloughed, grounded or redundant UK airline personnel to show their support their local NHS.

The airline volunteers are all trained to communicate in stressful situations and their lounges provide a space for NHS staff to unwind and de-compress while at work.

Caroline Haynes, director of human resources and organisational development at Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are so excited to have the Project Wingman mobile wellbeing lounge on site for staff to use and enjoy.

“Our teams have done amazing things throughout the pandemic, continuing to provide care to people in our local communities, so it’s lovely to be able to say thank you to them for everything that they’ve done.

“We’ve had amazing feedback from staff who have used the lounge, and they are overwhelmed by the generosity of the Project Wingman volunteers, who are giving up their time to support their local NHS.

“It’s a brilliant initiative, providing a very different environment for staff to take a well-earned break, and on behalf of our staff, I would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved.”

After its week at Bognor Regis War Memorial Hospital the bus will move to other locations in West Sussex, including Horsham Hospital.

Captain Rich Griffin, director and mobile lounge manager for Project Wingman, commented: “I am incredibly proud to see Wellbee visit Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust at both Bognor Regis War Memorial Hospital and Horsham Hospital. Wellbee is our first fully branded mobile wellbeing service and to see her being enjoyed by so many hospital staff is genuinely heart-warming.”

The visit was made possible thanks to Sussex Community NHS Charity, the official charity of Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust.

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