The chief executive of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital praised the “Dunkirk-spirit” of staff after 30 nurses slept over because of the snow.

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Nurses and paramedics made makeshift beds in staff areas at the Colney site on Tuesday night after deciding against travelling home on treacherous roads.

Officials also made beds available to some outpatients, who should have been sent home, and served them breakfast after they were unable to leave the hospital site.

Anna Dugdale, chief executive, said staff walked up to ten miles to make it into work and day staff covered colleagues shifts after night staff were delayed by roads chaos.

“It was the Dunkirk spirit and everyone mucked in and helped everyone. It was really amazing to see the commitment of all the clinical staff. The ambulance service staff were real heroes and did a great job to get people to hospital in difficult circumstances,” she said.

The East of England Ambulance Service’s hazardous area response team was also called into Norwich on Tuesday with 4x4s helping to escort ambulances to the hospital. The service received 378 calls in Norfolk on Tuesday and 282 in Suffolk.

Neil Storey, director of operations for the ambulance service, gave his heartfelt thanks to staff and volunteers for their “sterling” efforts in the snow.

“I really want to publicly praise all the staff and volunteers across the trust, on the roads, in control rooms, on 999 calls, patient transport services, out of hours and all the support staff for enabling us to cope so well.

“I am so impressed by how committed and determined staff and volunteers were in ensuring patients were excellently cared for. There were cases yesterday [Tuesday] of crews battling through the snow for up to five hours to make sure their patients got the care they needed.”

Ambulance staff on leave volunteered to come in to work and one clinical manager treated four people on the same pavement in Norwich city centre, with varying complaints from a broken arm to a cut eye.

The East Anglian Air Ambulance has also been in operation, despite the snowfall and very cold conditions.

A spokesman said the air ambulance took an extra couple of minutes to respond to incidents because of visibility issues and getting the helicopter ready. The air ambulance was called to Rackheath this morning to the assistance of a young boy and treated him. However, he was not taken to hospital.

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