Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge today visited NHS staff at Clitheroe Community Hospital, East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, to hear about their incredible contributions caring for patients throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
In their role as Joint Royal Patrons for NHS Charities Together they also heard how support from the hospital charity ELHT&Me, using a grant from NHS Charities Together, helped to support exhausted colleagues at the Trust, including funding a new therapy puppy, Alfie, who was introduced during the visit and whose name was announced by the Duchess of Cambridge.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also spoke to GPs, nurses and other healthcare professionals who work across the community, giving a welcome morale boost to a team that has carried on providing the best possible care for elderly and sick patients, within the hospital and in the rural community, despite experiencing the busiest services on record.
In addition they met with patients, including those who will soon be able to leave hospital thanks to the care they have received from the team, with continued support provided at home.
East Lancashire has been one of the areas worst affected by Covid-19. The relentless pressures on services and tragic loss of patients and colleagues have inevitably taken a toll on all NHS staff, with nearly two thirds saying their part in the response to the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health – and many reporting depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress.
Thanks to the incredible public response to its Covid-19 Urgent Appeal, NHS Charities Together was able to allocate over £300,000 to the Trust’s charity, EHLT&Me, which has been used to fund a range of staff wellbeing projects.
This has included funding equipment and infrastructure for the Trust’s staff wellbeing team, a new therapy dog to work with staff and patients, and support with practical needs like staff wellbeing rooms, food and drink. This was provided alongside a huge amount of donations of goods and money from local people and businesses.
However, with the pressures on the NHS expected to have an impact for many years to come, the charities are both encouraging people to continue to support the NHS and its staff.
Sarah Caton, a Matron at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, working in the Community Hospitals based at Pendle and Clitheroe, said:
“I have seen first-hand the impact on health and wellbeing of colleagues during the response to the Covid pandemic. It has been an extremely intense, relentless and exhausting time for everyone in the NHS and throughout my 34-year career I have not experienced anything like this. East Lancashire has been particularly affected by the pandemic and we have lost so many people, including beloved colleagues, to Covid. The team has supported patients and their families through some difficult times but just as importantly we have supported each other and continue to do so. We couldn’t have got through it otherwise.
“The funding provided by both NHS Charities Together and the hospital’s own charity ELHT&Me has been so important to us. Staff have been provided with health and well-being packs, meals and hot drinks, places for rest and respite, therapy, wellbeing rooms and more. The charities are doing a brilliant job and it has prompted me to fund raise myself because I know the work they are doing is so critical to our response but also our recovery. I want to say thank you to everyone who has contributed and for them to know the huge impact it has made.”
Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive for NHS Charities Together, said:
“It means so much to NHS staff that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge could visit the team in East Lancashire today to hear their experiences and see first-hand how support from the public through NHS charities makes such a difference. Sadly the pressures facing the NHS aren’t going away any time soon, so it’s vital that we continue to be there to support the mental health and wellbeing of NHS, so they are able to face whatever challenges are ahead. We are so grateful to our Royal Patrons for helping to shine a light on this issue and supporting the incredible NHS workforce.”
Professor Eileen Fairhurst, Chairman of East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said:
“I am delighted to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Clitheroe Community Hospital. The visit will provide a huge boost to the entire team at a time when colleagues are feeling exhausted from our ongoing and relentless response to Covid and indeed the very difficult challenges linked to the Omicron variant.
“As Chairman, I want to add my thanks to NHS Charities Together and our own hospital charity team at ELHT&ME, who have worked tirelessly throughout the past two years with patients, their families, the wider community and indeed many, many local businesses to ensure our staff have been supported. We have suffered greatly and lost many people, including colleagues, but through grant funding and also donations of goods and money locally we have been able to look after colleagues and support health and wellbeing in a range of ways. It gives me tremendous pride to know that this has made such a huge a difference to people and will continue to do so for many years to come.”