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Chris to 'lead from the front' to support our Armed Forces community

Chris Upton from the Armed Forces Network

This week, 20-25 June, is Armed Forces Week. Here at UHDB we are lucky enough to have staff within our ranks that have served for our country and we are celebrating them by shining a light on our Armed Forces family.

To kick off Armed Forces week we have been talking to Chris Upton, a Portering Supervisor at Queen’s Hospital Burton, who has recently been appointed as the new Deputy Lead for UHDB’s Armed Forces Network.

He has told of his pride at the new role and why it is important to support any ex-forces staff, visitors, patients and those in the communities we serve.

Chris said: “I joined the Royal Navy in 1984.

“It was something that I always wanted to do.

“I saw a television programme in the seventies called Sailor as a little boy and I knew that was what I wanted to do so I joined the Sea Cadets and I went from there.

“In 1984 I joined as a Gunner and I maintained the weapons. I then did a Commando course and ended up as Royal Navy Commando which took me to many places and allowed me to travel all over the world.

“I enjoyed what I did and I knew I was doing something worthwhile but there wasn’t much help available. Sometimes all we wanted was a cuddle.”

Chris joined UHDB five years ago as a porter and said he sees similarities in his team to when he was serving in the forces.

He said: “It can be like being in the forces in our department sometimes because the camaraderie is amazing.

 “We’ve been through some really tough times the past couple of years and we were down to less than half of our compliment of staff but we all stepped up to the mark and it was brilliant watching the team and see their dedication.

“They could have just come in, done their bit and gone home but they all supported one another and went the extra mile. It was fantastic.

“The porters make the job what it is, they are unbelievable.”

Chris is passionate about helping those who have been in the forces and said he first came across the Armed Forces Network at the Trust two years ago.

Since then he has attended every meeting and is “over the moon” to have recently been given the role of Deputy Lead of the network.

He said: “I am over the moon. I really care about this network and I want to make a difference and help as many people as possible.

“There is a definite need for the network, in my department alone there is 40 staff and three of them are veterans.

“The good thing about the network is that it is not just for staff.

“We help the families of those who have served aswell and of those who are still serving. In our network we’ve got a couple of serving wives. They work at UHDB but their husbands are in the forces. It is nice to be able to offer them support while getting an insight from their perspective.

“We’re also open to anyone who has any experience or has value to add to the network.

“It might be someone who has not been in the forces themselves but their grandad served and they are passionate about helping veterans, or maybe they just have some ideas on how we can get our message and support out there.”

Chris said he has big plans for his new role, in which he wants to collaborate with outside organisations and educate staff on how to treat patients that have an Armed Forces background.

He said: “I always lead from the front and that’s what I intend to do for the network.

“I really want to show people what we can do and I think there’s some work to be done around education and awareness, especially when it comes to treating patients who are veterans.

“When I am on shift I ask my team when they are moving people from A and E and different wards to identify any veteran patients so I can go and have a chat with them and ask if they need anything.

“A lot of patients won’t say that they are a veteran but staff can still be aware and I always wear my Armed Forces network badge, my veterans badge and my NHS poppy to make people aware of my background and be relatable to those patients and staff who maybe do want to reach out to me.”

So what does Chris want to say to his fellow forces on Armed Forces Week?

He said: “It is important to shine a light on Armed Forces week because we owe a lot to our serving members, families and veterans. This is our heritage.

“I would like to thank all those serving and veterans for their service and to just say that having the network within the Trust, support is only a click on the button away.”

If you would like to find out more about Armed Forces Week or UHDB’s Armed Forces Network you can click on this link>