Fiona, who is studying a PhD at Hartpury University in lameness in endurance horses to promote welfare, longevity and competitive success, was formerly employed as a specialist respiratory physiotherapist before setting up her own veterinary physiotherapy company.
When the pandemic struck, she volunteered to provide triage for potential Covid-19 cases and overnight support to Covid-19 patients with respiratory distress and ventilated patients.
“I think anyone trained in any aspect of healthcare felt that there was a moral and ethical obligation to help,” said Fiona.
“To sit back and watch a crisis when you have the skills to assist goes against our moral compass.
“I have previous clinical expertise in respiratory, so there was no question about whether I should offer my services or not.
“The true frontline staff and acute hospitals coped admirably and I wasn’t needed within the hospitals.
“However, I have experience and still work with individuals with long-term disabilities and complex care needs, so my input to these individuals increased dramatically to seven days a week with the aim of admission avoidance, as hospitalisation of some of these high-risk individuals during a pandemic would almost certainly be fatal.
“Many of the patients I was working with didn’t have full comprehension of why their relatives were not able to visit, or why we were all ‘masked up’, so it is important to make them feel safe and continue to be as normal as possible.
“It was very busy but, of course, I’m ready to assist again should it be necessary.”
Alongside her PhD and running her own company, Fiona is physiotherapist to the GB Young Rider squad and employed two days a week at Fitzpatrick Referrals as a veterinary physiotherapist.
Fiona has presented her equine research to the welfare committee of Endurance GB – governing body for endurance riding in the UK – and she is working with them on an ongoing basis to improve horse welfare in the sport.
Dr Stephen Draper, Dean of Research and Knowledge Exchange at Hartpury University, said: “Fiona has made an incredible contribution to the NHS during the pandemic and is a credit to Hartpury.”