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Shrewsbury hospitalWhen three apprentices started on a pioneering programme within the Medical Engineering Services department (MES) at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) little did they know within a few months they would have a key role to play as the pandemic struck.

Rhys Arnold, Carnell McKenzie and Kurran Singh Rai are the first apprentices in MES for over 25 years. They are part of a 33-strong team which manages a mammoth 34,000 medical devices of which over 20,000 are owned by SaTH.

Nigel Watkinson, Medical Engineering Services manager at SaTH, said: “To put this into context the apprentices had a few months to settle and then COVID hit. It has been a good grounding and we couldn’t have predicted that – they have had to hit the ground running at a time of a pandemic the likes of which the NHS has not seen before.”

He said that they looked at an apprenticeship scheme within MES as nearly half of the department’s staff were at or about to reach retirement age and there was also recognition within the mechanical engineering industry that there was a shortage of technicians.

“We looked at candidates who were of a good academic level and over the age of 18 so they could head straight onto a unique clinical engineering degree,” Nigel said.

At the end of their three-year apprenticeship they will be trained to the highest level and can take over from those who are retiring, he added.

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust apprentices: Kurran Singh (Left) Carnell McKenzie (Centre) Rhys Arnold (Right)

Carnell, Rhys and Kurran are learning the basic disciplines of mechanical and electronic engineering. They may then specialise in a certain field.

Rhys, aged 22, from Shrewsbury, said: “I picked the NHS because both my parents work at the Trust and my family has a long history with the NHS. I know it is a fantastic workplace and it is great place to go and help other people – we are dealing with patients day in and day out.”

He added that the parts he enjoyed were helping people and the job satisfaction.

Rhys is following both his parents into SaTh with his mother working at the Trust as a Senior Pharmacy Technician and his father an Estates Electrician.

Rhys, Carnell, 24, from Wolverhampton, and Kurran, 25, from Dudley, are now in their final year of BSc (Hons) Healthcare Science (Clinical Engineering) at the University of West England.

Most of the course is online with three block weeks spent at the university. The apprentices spend at least a day a week studying and then the rest of the week working at SaTH. They also move around the various departments in three-month blocks.

Nigel is hoping with the success of the apprentices they will be able to take on more in the future by showcasing SaTH as a great place to work and medical engineering as a fantastic career.

He added: “The apprentices come to SaTH and they want to stay and it is up to us to keep them. It is good that they are happy and motivated.”

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