No-one wants to be here, on the Bi-Annual Patient Handling course today. No-one. And – to be fair – the Trust probably don’t want us here, either. I’m sure if they could cover their legal obligations some other way, by hiring someone in a crop-duster to swoop in low every once in a while to spray the county with liquefied rules and regs, or maybe introduce it into the water like fluoride, they undoubtedly would. But as neither of those things are currently an option, here we are on a business park on the furthest, most westerly edge of the county – so far west, I wouldn’t be surprised to see cars and buses plummeting off the edge of the world, beeping their horns, revving helplessly, as they tumbled away into infinity.
Nothing so wonderful. Here we sit in a brave and chippy semicircle, introducing ourselves.
Our tutor Pawel is as upbeat as we are cynical. He says ‘Hello’ very emphatically when it’s our turn to speak, leaning forwards and pyramiding his hands beneath his nose, like this is the most fascinating bunch of people it’s ever been his pleasure to meet. And when each of us is done speaking our sad little bio, he says ‘Welcome’ very sincerely, almost tenderly, acknowledging our bravery and honesty, and then moves on to the next.
He’s dressed in a dark blue polo shirt, combat trousers and black boots, the partisan captain of an evangelical Occupational Health outreach unit, a visionary zeal about him that his Polish accent somehow intensifies.
Pawel can hardly wait for the introductions to finish before he strides about the room. Even the housekeeping at the beginning reads more like the opening of a thriller.
‘And God forbid there should ever be a FIRE! – Don’t worry, my friends! I’m not planning for this to happen! But if there IS A FIRE! – You should all follow me through the main offices here, and I will lead you to SAFETY in the corner of the parking lot…’
We start the training. Pawel pegs out a line of awful statistics about back pain and so on, the costs to the service, the cost to the practitioners, and then moves onto all the techniques that will protect us from this. We take it in turns to be the patient, effortlessly moved up and down the hospital bed, from chair to chair, from floor to chair, from chair to floor to chair, each time Pawel snapping his red nylon slide sheet like a magician, stuffing it into tiny gaps, whipping it out again. Frictionless movement. Painless transfers. Safety. Comfort. ERGONOMICS.
‘Do you SEE it?’ he says after every procedure. ‘Do you SEE it?’