Christmas can be a stressful time, especially for those working tirelessly on the frontline to keep us safe and well during the winter months.
Despite this, hospitals, ambulance trusts, mental health trusts and community health services, with support from their NHS charities, go above and beyond to make sure that this time of year is special for everyone that they care for – whether they work there or are receiving treatment.
We spoke to five members of staff who told us what working for the NHS at Christmastime is like, as well as the difference that charitable giving to the NHS makes for its staff and patients, both during the festive season and all year round. Read on to find out what they had to say.
Shannon works as an Emergency Care Assistant with the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, which is supported by South Western Ambulance Charity.
She told us what it is like working on the frontline over Christmas and the support that the charity provides:
“Both my husband and I are in the emergency services and so we very rarely both have Christmas off to spend with the children as a family. However, we make our own traditions and sometimes even move our Christmas Day to a few days before or after depending on shift patterns.
“We appreciate how important frontline work is, especially over the Christmas period, and want to be there for those who are suffering at what should be such a happy time.
“NHS charities help provide an even better service to our communities by extending access to health and wellbeing initiatives for our people, providing enhanced equipment for our community first responder volunteers and increasing public access to defibrillators.”
Stacey has been a Health Play Specialist for fourteen years at East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which is supported by East and North Hertfordshire Hospitals’ Charity.
She told us what it is like working within the NHS at Christmas and about the difference charitable funding makes for the children she works with:
“We make sure there is Christmas music playing, Christmas films on and the decorations are up. The children that visit us over that time will get a present and the children who are in hospital on Christmas day will get a sack of presents. Father Christmas visits the ward, and we have our entertainers and other local visitors in on the week leading up.
“I think it’s an extra special time to work in the NHS. We don’t want any children to be poorly over Christmas, but we try to make the best out of a sad situation.
“Our hospital charity is amazing they always go above and beyond and say yes to make sure we have the latest equipment on our ward and funds to support our children. They are as passionate as us, we are so lucky in our Trust that our charity and play team work closely together, we are a really good team.”
Luke (he/him) is the LGBTQ+ Network Chair at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which is supported by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Charity.
He told us how the Trust celebrates Christmas and about the support its staff and patients receive from the charity:
“I think Christmas time is always a good atmosphere within the NHS. The Trust make it a nice atmosphere for patients and those visiting. It can also be a sad time of year for many, especially over the last few years around covid as people weren’t able to visit their loved ones for Christmas.
“Charitable funds help to enhance the brilliant care that’s given by the NHS whether that is the funding of new equipment that makes the experience more comfortable or supporting staff to be the best that they can be.
“I think it’s a great way for local communities to support their own hospitals either to say thank you for the care they have received, or their loved ones have received.”
Barry works as a pharmacy Dispenser at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, which is supported by Birmingham Women’s Hospital Charity.
He told us about the festive activities that his colleagues get involved in, as well as the difference that charitable funding makes:
“Everyone is jolly and in the Christmas spirit. Different wards will host things like bake-offs. The other day the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit baked Christmas cookies and homemade cakes to raise money for the charity.
“The charitable part of the hospital is huge and it’s a lovely feeling knowing that the charity does so many things to improve patients’ time in hospital such as decorating the wards.”
Wendy has been a GP Practice Nurse in Nottingham for nearly two years. Before that, she worked at King’s Mill Hospital.
She told us about the importance of lifting patients’ spirits and the impact of charitable donations:
“I always want to have a good rapport with the patients and lift their spirits even though it can be a difficult time for a lot of patients. We just continue to support and help each other through an even busier period and teamwork is always the best thing.
“The previous hospital I worked for had support from a range of charities. We had support for bereaved families and cancer patients as well as toy donations for paediatric patients. The donations make a huge difference for patients in knowing they are not alone and that other people, aside from the hospital staff, care.”