While you’re tucking into your turkey and playing charades on Christmas Day hundreds of staff at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton will be hard at work caring for their patients. A dedicated group of doctors and nurses and a large team of support staff make up this festive workforce.
Dr Stephen Drage is a consultant in the Critical Care Unit and he and his team will be busy looking after some of the sickest patients in the hospital. The unit has 32 beds with patients who need constant monitoring and high levels of care. It may be Christmas Day but it’s also ward rounds as normal.
Dr Drage said: “Working over Christmas goes with the job and my wife is a doctor too so she understands. We see patients when they are at their most vulnerable and sick and being able to make a difference to them at this time and also support their families is very humbling and rewarding.
The father of two added: “I don’t think my children will wait until I get back to open their presents. I will get home and eat the left overs and then I’ll have a special meal with my family on a different day.”
Junior sister Tracey Barton works on a trauma and orthopaedic ward in the hospital. The mother of five said:
“We have a real variety of patients, from 18 year olds right up to people in their 90s. We see everything from a simple fracture to life-threatening injuries and we could have a patient who has been in our intensive care unit or come in following a car accident.
“I worked last Christmas and I volunteered to work this Christmas as well. It was amazing, I really enjoyed it and there was a really lovely atmosphere. It’s really busy still but it’s really lovely having our patients’ family and friends coming in to visit.”
Nancy Harley is the first voice many people here when they call the hospital, working on the switchboard and handling hundreds of calls a day. She is a regular on the Christmas shift and said:
“I’ve worked on Christmas day for the last four years and the best thing about it is helping the patients and their families. Relatives can be upset when someone in their family is brought in and if I can help relieve a little bit of their stress by doing my job it’s really nice.”
Nancy will finish her shift at lunchtime and head home to unwrap presents. She added: “The family have to wait until I get back before they can have their presents and then it’s an early night for me as I’ll be back at work again on Boxing Day.”
It’s not just the staff who will be on the wards over the holidays. Volunteer David Rochester will be lending a handing on wards at the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath. Affectionately known as ‘Rocky’, the dedicated volunteer will be coming in to help staff with the festive lunch. Rocky said: “I really like supporting the staff and helping the patients enjoy the day. I get a lot of enjoyment out of coming in and helping other people.”