SCHOOLS and hospitals across the region had to call in extra help yesterday as teachers and health staff were caught up in the volcanic crisis.
Teaching supply agencies told The Journal the demand for supply teachers and assistants was “unprecedented” for this time of the year. One agency, Capita, said that across the North East they had two and a half times more requests than they would have expected.
It is thought that several hundred staff, including back office assistants and teachers, were unable to make it back from Easter holidays as flights remained grounded yesterday.
And top North East surgeons are among those stuck abroad by the Iceland volcano eruption. Consultant general laparoscopic and trauma surgeon Hugh Gallagher and consultant urological surgeon Garrett Durkan have both been unable to get flights back to Britain from the holidays they were enjoying with their families. Hugh, who works at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary is trapped in Gran Canaria, while Garrett, who works at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, is unable to make it back from Lanzarote.
Both had been due to carry out operations on patients, including cancer-sufferers, this week, but have had to reschedule or allow their colleagues to take over on their behalf. Among his patients Hugh performs life-saving keyhole surgery on those admitted to hospital following serious accident and injury. His wife Alison is also a radiographer for Newcastle Hospitals.
He said: “It is hugely frustrating because you feel responsible for your patients and you don’t want to let them down. Luckily I have been able to rely on my colleagues and I will repay them by taking some of their workload at some stage.”
But at one North East boarding school, where pupils were stranded on the other side of the world, there was no escaping homework.
Longridge Towers School, Berwick, is emailing work to its students caught up in the flight ban.
The private school has two pupils stuck in South Korea, two stuck in Australia, and one unable to make it back to school from Germany.
Headteacher Tim Manning said: “We have pupils coming up to their GCSEs, so it’s important they don’t fall behind at this stage. We have email addresses for some of the pupils abroad.”