An evening of thanks for NHS and frontline heroes – Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

The event, on Thursday, April 7, was hosted by the Duchess of Northumberland in her capacity as Lord Lieutenant and organised by a partnership including the Rector at Hexham Abbey, the NHS and Northumberland County Council.

More than 250 people who all worked tirelessly to save lives including doctors, nurses, surgeons and paramedics were invited to attend. Also in attendance were key frontline workers who ensured all vital services were still delivered within the county as well as those who volunteered to help run testing and vaccination centres, food banks and those delivering food and medicines to residents who were shielding. 

Her Grace, the Duchess of Northumberland said:The Covid pandemic has affected each and every one of us in different ways. There has been much hardship and loss, but we have also witnessed extraordinary acts of bravery and care from so many people as they worked selflessly and tirelessly to help those in need. 

“This special service has provided a time to reflect and give thanks for the amazing work and sacrifices of the many key workers and unsung heroes who have cared for our communities and kept us safe. It is also a time to remember those who tragically lost their lives to this devastating virus. 

“Across Northumberland there have been so many people who helped in so many ways throughout the pandemic that we could have filled the Abbey three times over, and I’d also like to say a personal thank you to everyone who played their own important part. We have all been humbled and amazed at the selflessness and dedication of those in our communities who went out of their way to help others.”

Three guest speakers talked about their own experience of what things were like for them during the pandemic.

Northumbria Healthcare’s Dr Chris Biggin, an A&E consultant at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, who not only worked throughout, but also caught Covid and recovered from it, gave a moving account of his experiences as both an emergency consultant and a patient being care for by the trust’s critical care team.

He said: “The pandemic has brought worry, grief and loss to many. Loss of those we care deeply about, loss of fitness for many who caught Covid-19, loss of opportunity for so many young people.

“Those of us working in healthcare have been witnessed and felt fear, despair, courage, commitment and camaraderie and I am incredibly proud of all of my work family – doctors, nurses, cleaners, porters and everyone else.

“Having been on the other side as a patient in critical care, I am also immensely proud and grateful for the compassionate and life-saving care I received and for the incredible resilience of our critical care and respiratory clinicians. 

“As people now look forward and attempt to move on, we can all reflect on a tumultuous period that no one could have trained for, but that showed to the full the values of those who dedicate their working life to the service of the public. It will be a period of recovery not only for the service, but for each of the huge group of individuals I am lucky to call my colleagues. We will always care for our patients and their families, and possibly we now better understand how important it is to care for ourselves and each other.

“The service was very moving, and it was very special that so many different people from different walks of life had the opportunity to come together to pay very special tribute to all key workers, those who have been or who are still ill, those that sadly died and those grieving the loss of loved ones. I feel very privileged to have been able to attend and take part in the service.”

Rebecca McVittie, headteacher at the Sele First School in Hexham, talked about the importance of social interaction and feeling connected. She also talked about how our children give us hope for the future, while Dave Cook, operational lead of Close Housing Nursing Home in Hexham, spoke of his experience in managing a care home during the pandemic. 

Candles were lit, prayers read, and hymns were sung by The Hexham Abbey Choir and the congregation. A collection on the evening will be shared between the Abbey and the mental health charity MIND.

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