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Thanks to you shopping our Rainbow Sale, charity tees and bags, M&S has donated £7.3 million to NHS Charities Together. Here, four nurses explain how the charity has helped during the Covid-19 crisis

Zoe wearing her uniform outside Ysbyty Gwynedd

Zoe McDonald

Zoe is a senior staff nurse with the renal acute team on the Hebog Ward at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, Wales. NHS Charities Together helped fund a wellbeing service for staff. “The first time I had to go to a Covid-19 ward to dialyse a patient, I didn’t sleep the night before. I was terrified, literally shaking when I walked in. The staff on the ward were so good, they put me at ease and now it feels OK to go there. I put on my protective gear; it’s become part of what we do. The charity helped fund a wellbeing service that provides support for staff to talk about their fears or how the pandemic was affecting them. I’ve heard from quite a few people who have used it and they said it helped a lot. The camaraderie of the staff has got me through. From my incredible manager to staff I’ve met for the first time, we’ve all helped each other.”

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Mhairi-Jane wearing her uniform in Midlothian

Mhairi-Jane Ramage

Mhairi-Jane is a specialist practitioner district nurse in Midlothian, Scotland. In May, her team received a ‘wellbeing hub in a tub’ filled with treats and practical items. “As community nurses, we visit patients at home – we’re a ward without walls, and build close relationships with patients and their families. When someone passes, we carry out a bereavement visit to see how the family is doing and give support. I went to see the wife of a patient who died in hospital. She hadn’t been able to visit because of Covid-19, and broke down. I comforted and reassured her, but felt helpless. After hard days like that you really appreciate the ‘hub in a tub’. Every item was so well considered: lavender face masks to ease anxiety, and snack bars to pop in the car in case we miss lunch. I took home a packet of seeds and now I have three flourishing basil plants. Pottering around getting lost in wee tasks, like growing herbs, helps me to relax and switch off.”

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Ray wearing his uniform outside John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford

Ray Atienza-Hawkes

Ray is a charge nurse in the Ambulatory Assessment Unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. NHS Charities Together helped to create a quiet room for Ray’s team. “The pandemic has restricted us in lots of ways – we can’t hold patients’ hands and they can’t see we’re smiling; if a colleague is upset, we can’t hug them. As a manager, I worry about my team: whether they have the protection they need, and the emotional and psychological impact this could have on them. At the height of the pandemic, we couldn’t escape from it. It was palpable. Travelling to work, I hardly saw anyone. It felt unreal. The charity helped transform our relatives’ room into a comfortable, calm and inviting space where staff can relax and reflect. I use it a lot. I might listen to a meditation app or sit down with a member of staff for a debrief or catch-up. Sometimes that’s all we need.”

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Suzanne wearing her uniform in County Durham

Suzanne Vickers

Suzanne is matron for palliative and end-of-life care at County Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation Trust. Her patients were able to say their last goodbyes using iPads funded by NHS Charities Together. “Covid-19 patients often decline rapidly, and visiting restrictions mean they can’t be with their relatives. The iPads connected patients to family, pets and sights and sounds that evoke happy memories. We had one patient in hospital who said goodbye to his son using the iPad. His son was sitting in the garden, so he heard the birds one last time. There are 30 amazing palliative-care nurses in my team, and seeing them with their relatives has given comfort to families. We’ve seen people who’d been married for 60 or 70 years, saying goodbye, and could reassure them: ‘I’ll sit with her, she won’t die by herself’. I feel privileged to do this job, to know I make a difference.”

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Words: Miranda Eason and Sophie Hines / Images: Dan Lowe

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