Leeds Hospitals Charity is supporting exhausted NHS staff during Covid pandemic - and you can help too

Leeds medical staff unprepared for the emotional toll of working through the coronavirus pandemic are receiving extra support thanks to the city's dedicated hospital charity.

By Georgina Morris
Saturday, 30th January 2021, 6:00 am

Leeds Hospitals Charity has funded the appointment of four new staff members as part of an extensive wellbeing programme for frontline health workers, including those who are treating patients with Covid-19.

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It means there are now more people there for any Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust staff who normally work in other departments and have been exposed to upsetting situations during the pandemic.

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Leeds Hospitals Charity is the dedicated charity for Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and support projects that make a difference to staff, patients and their families.

Charity chief executive Esther Wakeman said: “Our NHS colleagues are working so hard during this time and they always prioritise their patients, so we are pleased to be able to do

something that supports them.

"When they spend a full day in personal protective equipment and can’t even hug their colleagues at the end of a hard shift, it is important that there are other ways for them to access support.”

It is just one of the many practical ways that the charity and its supporters are making a difference on a daily basis, whether for staff themselves or for the patients and families relying upon them for care.

The Yorkshire Evening Post is teaming up with Leeds Hospitals Charity to begin the Help Your Hospitals campaign, encouraging readers to become regular donors.

During the pandemic, Leeds Hospitals Charity has been able to provide more than £1m to support the health and wellbeing of those NHS heroes. This included a donation of more than £400,000 from the organisation NHS Charities Together, raised by fundraisers all over the country.

And with the support of more regular donors here in the city, the charity would be able to do even more to back projects that the NHS does not fund but which have the potential to do so much good for hospital staff and patients.

It is why the Yorkshire Evening Post has joined Leeds Hospitals Charity today to begin the Help Your Hospitals campaign. It asks our readers to help the charity to raise an additional £3m during 2021 by becoming a friend and making a regular donation each month towards equipment, services, education and research at our local hospitals.

More than £1m was provided by Leeds Hospitals Charity last year to support the wellbeing of staff at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, including those treating Covid-19 patients.

The £1m donated towards supporting the wellbeing of staff last year has helped to renovate staff areas, including staff rooms on wards, and funded care packs to boost morale.

Four new staff members - two clinical psychologists, a health and wellbeing practitioner, and a mental health first aid project lead - have also been appointed.

The two psychologists have joined an existing team dedicated to supporting staff who work in some of the most stressful environments across the trust's eight locations.

Jason Miller, one of the new psychologists, supports staff in the cardio-respiratory teams and has seen first-hand the impact that responding to the crisis has had on them.

St James’s University Hospital is among the eight locations supported by Leeds Hospitals Charity. Picture: James Hardisty

“In the first wave, staff were running on adrenaline, and although they have fantastic clinical and medical training, none of them were emotionally prepared for these months and months of hardship," he said.

"Our staff are so dedicated and selfless, they want to do whatever they can to help their patients and some felt ashamed to say they were struggling.”

Mr Miller said he had been pleased to find that many of the staff felt comfortable to speak up about how they were feeling and approach him or his colleagues for help.

He added: "My job is to reassure them that ‘it’s ok not to be ok’. Our staff are dealing with emotionally and physically draining situations on a daily basis.

"I hope that the one positive change triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, is that there continues to be more onus put on psychological support for all staff.”

Thanks to the charity's support, a programme of mental health first aid training is due to be rolled out for NHS staff over the coming months. This training will give staff the tools they

need to provide the best possible peer-to-peer support for colleagues who are struggling.

A dedicated staff chaplain will also be appointed using charity funds, offering another important route for staff to access support they might need.

Text FRIEND to 70660 to donate £5 a month or visit leedshospitalscharity.org.uk to set up a regular donation for any sum or make a one-off gift to the charity.

What is Leeds Hospitals Charity?

Leeds Hospitals Charity - previously known as Leeds Cares - is the dedicated charity for Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

The charity works closely with the team of more than 18,000 people who work at our local hospitals to support projects that the NHS does not fund, helping to relieve pressure on staff and make a real difference to the experience of patients and their families.

With the support of generous donors, it makes that valuable contribution by raising funds for equipment, services, education and research.

The charity provides support for eight areas which include Leeds General Infirmary, Leeds Children’s Hospital, Leeds Cancer Centre, St James’s University Hospital, Chapel Allerton Hospital, Seacroft Hospital, Wharfdale Hospital and Leeds Dental Institute.

It supports NHS staff working at each of those locations to deliver the best care for more than a million patients and their families each year.

Working with local communities, schools and businesses across the city and beyond, it provides an average of £5m in additional funding for the trust each year.