NHS England Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard met staff and patients at Charing Cross Hospital today as part of NHS Big Tea celebrations to mark the NHS’ 74th birthday, acknowledging the NHS staff at the heart of the health service, and the vital role volunteers play in supporting it day in and day out.
Ms Pritchard spent the afternoon meeting staff and patients on the hospital’s acute medical unit and renal dialysis unit and joined a tea party fundraiser held in the new staff lounge – a space made possible entirely thanks to charitable donations at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The UK’s biggest tea break, the NHS Big Tea invites everyone to support our health service by hosting a party with family and friends on the NHS’ birthday. Led by NHS Charities Together, thousands are expected to take part across the nations today and raise vital funds in support of the UK’s 238 NHS charities.
Speaking to staff and patients, Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive said: “NHS staff responded magnificently to Covid and are now working hard to deliver the most ambitious catch-up programme in health service history, tackling the backlogs that inevitably built up while they treated more than 765,000 hospital patients with the virus, as well as many more in the community.
“The NHS Big Tea is our chance to say a big, heartfelt thank you, and support the incredible NHS charities all over the UK who play an important role in supporting staff and patients alike.
“The pandemic has been one of the greatest challenges the NHS has faced and staff have really appreciated the unstinting support of our amazing volunteers and of course the public.
“Knowing that their dedication, skills and compassion are recognised and valued has helped keep nurses, doctors, physios, pharmacists, porters, cleaners and all our other brilliant staff going through some dark days.
“So, as we once again recognise the outstanding contribution of NHS staff, I would also like to add a personal thank to all those who have volunteered, raised funds or otherwise supported them over the last two years.”
Funds raised from today’s NHS Big Tea contribute to new projects supporting healthcare at both a national and local level. Nationwide this includes major redevelopments, research and medical equipment for patients, community partnership programmes that prevent ill health and take pressure off services in the future, and vital new initiatives supporting staff mental health and wellbeing.
Throughout the pandemic, it has become more important than ever for hard-working hospital staff to have quiet, calm and relaxing rest spaces to take a break. In North West London, public donations during 2020 enabled Imperial Health Charity to fund a £1.2m programme of long-term improvements to facilities for NHS staff at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, including upgrades to dozens of break rooms, changing areas, kitchens and showers across its five hospitals, plus the creation of brand new dedicated rest areas where staff can relax and unwind.
To help address the enormous impact of Covid-19 on staff mental and health and wellbeing, NHS Charities Together was able to provide an additional £213.5k of funding to help the charity rapidly expand the existing counselling service for staff at its hospitals. Between April 2020 and September 2021, the service referred over 1,300 staff members for one-to-one counselling and support, with an additional 4,500 staff accessing emotional wellbeing groups.
Charlotte Jaye, Interim Deputy Divisional Director of Nursing for Acute and Specialist Medicine at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “The improvements to staff facilities funded by Imperial Health Charity have transformed our breakrooms. At Charing Cross Hospital, our acute medical unit staff room was really crying out for an overhaul. Now it’s a light, airy, calm and welcoming space for all the staff on the ward to enjoy. Over the last two years the work has felt relentless at times and keeping morale high has been a real challenge, but having this wonderful space in which to relax and unwind has helped to ensure the whole team feels valued and recognised for their efforts.”
Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive of NHS Charities Together said: “As the national, independent charity caring for the NHS, alongside our incredible NHS charity members we are proud to have funded hundreds of projects supporting staff, patients, and communities across the UK. Working together, we take great care to ensure funds go right to where they are needed, getting your support to where it will have the most impact.
“Your extra support makes a vital difference to what we can achieve, and we’re excited to see everyone out celebrating the NHS birthday’ today and raising money where they can. By getting behind the NHS Big Tea, we can all make an important difference to the vital work of NHS charities, and help the health service go further for all of us.”
To sign up to host your own NHS Big Tea event and receive a fundraising support pack, please visit www.nhsbigtea.co.uk.