Whilst hundreds of thousands of Somerset people are enjoying Christmas Day with family and friends this year, around 400 staff at Yeovil Hospital will be hard at work looking after patients.

The staff will be working across the hospital’s departments and wards, including A&E and the children’s ward, providing the treatment, care and support needed to keep patients safe and well.

“We expect most of the beds in our hospital to be full on Christmas Day, so our fantastic staff will be working around the clock to ensure patients have the same level of treatment as on any other day,” said Chief Executive, Jonathan Higman.

“We’ll be getting patients washed and dressed, providing meals, carrying out tests, prescribing and administering medicines, diagnosing illnesses and injuries, mending broken bones and even carrying out emergency, sometimes life-saving, surgery.

“Every one of these staff is prioritising the health and wellbeing of patients over the opportunity to spend the day with their loved ones, and in doing so they are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of NHS staff across the country.

“Visiting wards and departments on the 25th of December is a highlight of my day and the most powerful reminder of the commitment and compassion of our staff.”

A calendar of events runs throughout December to make sure the festive spirit does not bypass the hospital. This includes carol singing on wards, a Christmas service in the hospital’s chapel and – on Christmas Day itself – cards and gifts for every inpatient, thanks to the generosity of the Friends of Yeovil Hospital.

Staff will also enjoy free breakfasts to keep up their energy for a busy day at work.

Jolene Stephenson, senior sister in the hospital’s Emergency Department, is one of those who will be working on Christmas Day this year. She said:

“No-one wants to spend Christmas Day in A&E, and we do all we can to get people assessed, treated and back home as soon possible so they can enjoy the festivities.

“There’s always great camaraderie amongst our team, and on Christmas Day in particular we work really hard to support one another and keep everyone’s spirit up – whether you’re a staff member or a patient. You’ll even find some tasteful decorations adding some sparkle to the department!”

Julie Napier, ward sister for the hospital’s Acute Coronary Care Unit, will also be giving up her Christmas day to care for her patients. She said: 

“All of us working on Christmas Day do everything we can to bring a smile to patients’ faces. They may be spending the day in hospital, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy themselves.”

 “We always make the ward as festive as possible, with decorations, carols and music. It’s lovely being able to lift patients’ spirits with gifts too.”   

Paediatric consultant Dr Michael Fernando said:

“We do our very best to make sure that as many children as possible can safely spend time at home with their families (even if only for a few hours), so the Children’s Ward tends to be less busy on Christmas Day. Father Christmas also does his best to come round.

“Families are friendly and courteous towards staff, particularly at Christmas. They know that the hospital is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and that staff working over Christmas have families too.

There is absolutely an underlying festive spirit on the ward. Staff do their very best to make Christmas in hospital as enjoyable as possible and to help provide a special atmosphere for children and their families.The ward is decorated and we have special visits including a reindeer for the first time this year!

“The most heartfelt gifts we receive are cards made by our patients. They mean a lot to us.

“The hardest thing about working over Christmas is looking after critically ill children at what should be a joyous time. Fortunately, the vast majority of even critically unwell children get better over a short period of time.”

Porter Jim Jenkins said:

“This is the first Christmas day I have ever worked, I am happy to work on Christmas day to spread the love of Christmas to every patient we have in Yeovil Hospital; no one wants to be ill at Christmas.

“I don’t know if patients and relatives are more mindful towards staff at Christmas but I hope that they remember we are here to help their loved ones get better.

“We all look forward to Christmas and we all have the festive spirit everywhere within the hospital. Patients may feel low as they are not well but we all try very hard to lift the Christmas spirit for everyone.

“The staff decorate their own wards and working areas and this year we have a huge variety of themes, including a Harry Potter ward – it’s amazing the effort staff put in!

“Getting a smile or laugh from a patient is the biggest gift I can ever get.That means I’m doing my job right.

“The biggest heartfelt moment I had was when I found the wedding ring of one of our patients; it was from her late husband; she was so happy that I found it that she was in tears.

“Personally, the hardest thing I find about working at Christmas is not being able to celebrate on Christmas day with my family.

“We all work very hard to make every patient have a memorable Christmas here at Yeovil Hospital, we all know that patients would like to be at home with their family and try to make it as enjoyable as possible if they can’t be. It is also nice to think that the patients who don’t have family to go home to have people around them at Christmas even though they are in hospital.

“I think of every patient as my family and I look after them as if they are, we all care about everyone, not just at Christmas but every day of the year.”

Midwifery Clinical Lead for Labour Ward Judy Atkin said:

“I have worked many Christmases as a midwife and they are always special. Coming to work is always exciting, not knowing if you will have any babies that day and Christmas Day is extra special. Being a small hospital we work as one big happy team and know each other well: midwives, doctors, support workers, theatre staff etc. The first thing staff returning from Christmas leave want to know is how many Christmas babies we had, boys or girls.

“We try to make it a happy time for the Mums and Dads who are in over the holiday. Generally they are feeling happy and excited because they have welcomed their new baby, and we try to get them home to their families as soon as possible. There is festive food and of course visitors are welcome anytime. There are gifts for the Mums and babies, and the staff bring in goodies to share. Christmas hats and jumpers, tinsel and twinkly lights all help to create a lovely atmosphere.

“Having a midwife in the family often means putting your own family gatherings on hold whatever the time of year, but walking in through the door after a shift at Christmas is magical. Each Christmas is different, whether you are working or not, and by sharing the shifts between us, we also share the magic!”

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