Hospital staff at Wigan Infirmary have naval connection

Andy Smith, Stephen Simants and Math Scapens
Andy Smith, Stephen Simants and Math Scapens

A trio of hospital staff realised it’s a small world when they discovered their military connections.

Math Scapens, Andy Smith and Stephen Simants all now work in the theatre department at Wigan Infirmary.

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But since working together, they have realised that they also served as medics in the Navy at the same time.

Math, 40, from Ashton, has worked for Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the borough’s hospitals, for almost four years and became a theatre co-ordinator earlier this year.

From 1999, he spent 10 years serving as a Navy commando medic in 45 Commando, based out of Arbroath, Scotland.

He also qualified as an operating department practitioner (ODP) while in the navy.

“You basically had to carry your ambulance on your back,” said Math, who served one tour in Northern Ireland and was on standby to go out to Afghanistan.

Math was responsible for caring for anyone injured on camp or during exercises and operations.

He left the Navy in 2009 to help bring up his three children - Danny, Milly and Will - with his wife, Lesley.

Six years later, he started working as an ODP at Wigan Infirmary, where he met Andy and Stephen.

After a conversation with Andy, a theatre practitioner, Math found out that Andy served with his best friend Tom.

Andy, 49, from Adlington, served in 45 Commando as well as Math, but it was only when they were introduced to each other at the hospital that they discovered the link.

Math was then introduced to Stephen, an anaesthetist at Wigan Infirmary, and they realised they had all trained as commando medics and served in the Navy in the late 1990s to early 2000s.

Math said: “It’s such a small world that not only one, but two lads from the same naval unit now work in the same department as me.”

The trust is part of the Veterans Covenant Hospital Alliance and has been commended as a Veteran Aware Hospital.

“I think it’s really good that the trust is veteran aware,” said Math, who attended the trust’s D-Day celebration earlier this month.

“It shows that staff are aware of how to engage and acknowledge the service of veterans and serving members of the armed forces, while also helping to ensure that those patients have access to specific support information and prompt any necessary referrals to specific veteran care providers.”

The trust held poignant ceremonies to mark 75 years since the first day of soldiers landing on the Normandy beaches in June 1944.

There was a flag-raising ceremony in the grounds of Wigan Infirmary while the trust’s chaplaincy choir performed and there was then a cake and buffet.

A tank was also on display at the hospital.