Queen recognises the incredible work of two physiotherapists on the frontline of the pandemic

Two CSP members have received British Empire Medals in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List, in recognition of their vital work during the Covid-19 crisis.

(Left to right): Respiratory physios and British Empire Medallists Jessie Horne and Alice Bretland

Jessie Horne and Alice Bretland (nee Richards), who are both respiratory physiotherapists, were announced as Medallists of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) when the honours list was published yesterday.

Miss Horne, who is the clinical lead for respiratory physiotherapy at the Whittington Hospital in London, received her honour in recognition for her work at the hospital on the frontline of the pandemic.

‘I am beyond grateful and overwhelmed to have been nominated for a BEM,’ she said.

‘Although it was an extremely difficult time and we all worked in ways we could never have imagined, I am immensely proud of all of the therapy department who provided the best care we could for our patients.

It is an honour to work in a hospital with such an incredibly caring and supportive team and colleagues, and this medal is for us all.

Providing continuous positive airway pressure 

Miss Horne co-led a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) service for Covid patients

Speaking about her clinical duties during the pandemic, Ms Horne, who lives in north-east London, told Frontline: ‘I led the physiotherapy team at the Whittington and we co-led the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) service for Covid patients.

‘To do this we also switched from an on-call service to night shifts.

Much of our work was managing patients on CPAP, proning and supporting the nursing staff with these patients.

An illustration of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure

‘A significant proportion of our Covid ITU patients also had tracheostomies and much of our work was early mobilisation, weaning and supporting nursing staff with these patients on the wards.

‘Our night-shift rota also included time allocated to relieve nurses breaks from being in bays with full PPE.

‘Outside of clinical work, my role specifically included extensive training for several disciplines on the various machines we received during Covid, working in a team that managed oxygen flow throughout the hospital and supporting our amazing staff who were redeployed to us from other areas.’

Continuing to learn


As well as leading the physiotherapy team at the Whittington, Miss Horne is currently studying for a Masters in advanced cardio respiratory physiotherapy at University College London.

She previously trained, at undergraduate level, at Hertfordshire University and, reflecting on how far she’s come since then, she said: ‘I had my son when I 18 - one month before my A-levels -  and then started university at 19.

‘My first respiratory placement was actually here at the Whittington with my current manager, where I also got my 1st Band 5 job and I have worked my way up to Band 8 since qualifying seven years ago.’

The 'invaluable knowledge' of a home ventilation team

Mrs Bretland leads a Home Ventilation Service

Alice Bretland (nee Richards), who works as a specialist respiratory physiotherapist and Home Ventilation Service lead at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board in Wales,  received her British Empire Medal in recognition of her services to the NHS during Covid-19.

Mrs Bretland, who lives in Penarth in South Glamorgan, told Frontline: ‘For the last eight years, I have worked in a specialist Home Ventilation Team who look after acute and long term patients on non-invasive ventilation, with the majority of our work being community based. 

‘The team's knowledge was invaluable when the pandemic struck, and one of the treatment choices was Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP).

Even though we don't usually manage the groups of patients on these machines, we have a good knowledge of devices and the circuitry which was being recommended.

‘So along with training an amazing stream of nurses who gallantly took on the task of looking after these very sick patients and increasing our ward presence, the team were made responsible for obtaining the CPAP equipment for the health board.’ 

Searching for solutions


In order to source all of the necessary equipment that the team required, Mrs Bretland had to be resourceful – especially in the early, panic-stricken days of the pandemic.

‘While the public were scouring the shelves for loo roll, I was trawling the internet for components like expiratory ports and filters,’ she explained.

‘I won't ever forget the day when I found three boxes of medical connectors at a veterinary supplier, but I did have to do a bit of explaining to our procurement department before they would buy them!’

A tireless team and crucial support

Mrs Bretland, who is also a member of the NHS network SiLVaH (Specialists in Long-term Ventilation at Home) added that, although she was hugely honoured to receive the award, she also saw it as recognition for the work of her whole team.

 ‘Our nurses are outstanding and their dedication to the patients sees no end.

They have worked tirelessly over the last six months, as they always do, and still have a smile on their faces as we approach whatever is around the next corner.

‘But also, without the support of my friends and family (especially my husband), the school that my two youngest children attended providing an excellent child care service and every person doing their bit we certainly would not have achieved what we did.’

An outstanding contribution

Charles Janczewski, Chair of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said that he was immensely proud of Mrs Bretland, as well as other staff from the health board who had also received honours.

He said that she and her colleagues had made ‘outstanding contributions to health at an especially challenging time.’


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