Charity Begins at Christmas

Hospital library charity drives help brighten the holiday season for their patients.

Hospital libraries team up with local charities to spread holiday cheer and provide comfort to those in need.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of working in a library based in a hospital or Health Trust is that, in some ways, it’s like working in a small village or town, although each Trust is different.

What most NHS Trusts have in common, however, is that they will usually have a charity of some kind based on-site, usually to improve facilities for “patients, service-users and their families.” Often, patients or relatives who feel they have had a particularly caring experience donate to the charity,

There are often special events throughout the year: The baby memorial garden is a moving backdrop for the “Wave of Light” service, which takes place in October to remember those babies who left us far too soon.

Some wards also have their own Friends groups, who work to improve patient and staff rest areas, some internal and some external (though with the weather in the North West of England, the external ones can sometimes be a little tricky outside summer!).

That’s quite apart from all the charity fundraising and awareness raising that goes on throughout the year, often deliberately timed to coincide with national and international campaigns such as Breast Cancer Awareness. There’s a slightly larger reminder of that campaign near a turning circle (roundabout) by one of the main patient car parks.


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Like many Trusts, Bolton also has a whole posse of volunteers who assist with all kinds of tasks. These can range from gardening to helping patients find the ward or department they need — which can be quite a task on a site where there’s a lot of building and renovation going on. They’re easily spotted in their bright yellow tops all around the site.

Other resources that are often funded include new medical equipment and updates to the environment. The charity even helps fund specialist training for staff. Throughout the year, there are various charity events that staff can participate in or support, from a “spinathon” on stationary exercise bikes to tea and cake events.

One of the most innovative charity contributions in the last year has been the donation of a gaming cart for the children’s ward to help younger patients pass the time in between waiting to be seen by the clinical staff.

Since Christmas is such a special time for children, it probably won’t surprise you that charity activity featuring paediatric wards is a major focus at this time of year. The main children’s ward, in particular, gets a lot of visitors this time of year — including a certain personage in a red and white suit with a curly white beard. There are strong connections with the local business community, and since Christmas is a particularly tough time of year to be in hospital for anyone, but especially younger patients, there are plenty of visits from members of the local community, too.


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Winter in the North West of England can be pretty tricky: From September to December, in particular, the nights can be very long and the mornings very dark. The Christmas to New Year period is one of the busiest in any hospital, and at Bolton, you never know when you’ll come across a tree or light display to lighten the dark.

This year, there are trees by the main entrance, by the Baby Memorial Garden, close to the staff restaurant, and in and next to many departments (including the Education Centre, where the library is currently located). They’re all different and reflect the personality of the various parts of the hospital — with butterflies, snowmen, ribbons, and bows in the Education Centre and real trees outside the main entrance and near the Research Offices. In the library, we appear to have acquired not only several small trees of varying sizes but also a small elvish personage, who guards the library enquiry desk if we’ve had to leave it unstaffed for a short time.


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There’s plenty of other activity to get involved with over the festive season, including Festive Friday. Normally, on a hospital site, staff are either in uniform or relatively formal business or at least smart casual garb, but the rules relax a little over Christmas and relax further still on Festive Friday. Christmas jumpers, Christmas socks, Santa or elf hats — you’ll see them all in the queue in the staff restaurant. This year, it all happened on 15th December.

The trees usually stay up until 6th January or Twelfth Night — tradition has it that it’s unlucky to leave Christmas decorations up beyond that date. Some of the lights, like those in the Baby Memorial Garden, are there all year round, however, usually coming on at dusk. This year, we’ve been in the path of Storm Pia, so the grounds staff have had to tether the outdoor trees more than usual — not an easy task!

Once Twelfth Night is over, the trees will either be safely stored, if artificial, ready for next year, or recycled if they’re real — we also know there is more positive and exciting tree news ahead for the hospital site in 2024.



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