Appeal to provide more food and care packs for Princess Royal Hospital staff in Haywards Heath

A Burgess Hill father is raising money to help frontline workers at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.

Andrew Hebditch, 58, whose wife Clare works as a matron at PRH, has set up a JustGiving page to raise the funds which will be used to supply meals and snacks for staff, primarily in the intensive care unit (ICU).

And he told the Middy about his huge admiration for his wife and all her ‘incredibly dedicated’ colleagues.

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He said: “Our frontline workers in the NHS are probably now under more pressure than they have ever been since the formation of the service.

Clare Hebditch, matron of the ICU at Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath

“In the first lockdown we showed our appreciation by applauding them on the doorstep every Thursday. It was a great gesture and of those in the service that I know, it was very much appreciated.

“It got me thinking as to whether there was even more we could do now.

“In the first lockdown, local businesses helped supply meals and snacks to the nurses and doctors on the wards, many of which spent long hours in uncomfortable PPE and were only able to take short breaks.

“However, there was only enough central finance for this to be for about three days a week. We all know the hospitals are operating all around the clock seven days a week!

Andrew Hebditch with his wife, Clare, and their daughter, Gemma

“So, I’ve set up this fundraising page so our local community can help the staff at our local hospital receive the meals and snacks for seven days a week. Hopefully, we can raise enough for this to cover the next couple of months when the pandemic is expected to get worse before it gets better.”

Andrew’s wife, Clare, 53, is matron of the ICU at PRH, and like other staff, she has been working around the clock in the fight against the coronavirus.

Andrew, a driving instructor, told the Middy: “It is very tough – Clare has pretty much been doing 60-hour weeks. I do everything I can at home and our daughter helps out as well.

“Clare is very stoic and keeps a lot to herself. I’ve got a lot of admiration for her. She and the other staff are incredibly dedicated.

Justine Earl has been supplying care packs to Princess Royal Hospital staff since the start of the pandemic

“And they are the very frontline. They are having to deal with people dying – they need more tangible support.”

Andrew has set a target of raising £10,000. So far, he has collected £1,315 and has used some of the cash to buy 30 ready meals from Tesco for staff.

“This is the sort of thing they can whack in the microwave and have a nice hot meal when they get a chance to have a break,” he said.

“I’ve also bought multipacks of crisps and biscuits.”

Becky Cook, The Garden Shed

He said after posting his fundraising page on Facebook groups, he discovered two other individuals were providing packed lunches and ‘care packs’.

“A lady called Becky Cook is providing lunch boxes on a Monday and a lady called Justine Earl is providing the care packs,” he said.

“I am going to focus on the other days. There are around 70,000 people in Mid Sussex – if one in ten people donated £1, we would raise the £10,000.”

Andrew has not been able to work throughout the pandemic, but said he has been fully aware of the conditions NHS staff are working under.

“My attitude is, it is what it is,” he told the Middy.

“Anyone who thinks this virus is a hoax I think is a massive slap in the face to hospital staff.

“The whole point of this lockdown is so hospitals are not full and under pressure – and if they are, where do people go to die then?

“We have now got the vaccine and it is about trying to maintain common sense until it is completely rolled out.

“Clare has told me there have been moments when the PRH is rammed and the ICU has been having to take patients from other areas.”

Care packs

Justine Earl, an ex-nurse, who has been supplying care packs to hospital staff, described the fundraising efforts of Andrew Hebditch as ‘wonderful’.

She has been providing the care packs and other equipment such as iPads, battery chargers, leads and walkie talkies, with the help of her daughter’s school, Brighton College, since the pandemic began in March.

Items such as small toiletries, hand creams, chocolate bars and crisps are included in the packs.

Justine, 50, said she is currently dropping off about 200 a week, and has sent out more than 2,000 to the PRH and some to other covid wards within the hospital trust. People donate items to her door and she contributes £100 of her own money each week.

She said: “I’m happy to do this because I think the NHS are brilliant. They’ve been providing such amazing care day in day out in the past year and beyond that. I think what they are doing is amazing – and when we all do a little bit, it just makes a difference.

“You also meet some amazing people when you do things like this - people have turned up with small and large donations, it doesn’t matter what is, it is the thought that counts and it really just makes us humans.”

Justine said if we can provide hospital staff with ready made lunches and snacks, this will boost their morale.

“We can’t take away their problems, we can only do a tiny bit to say thank you,” she added.

Donations for Justine’s care packs can be dropped off at Chestnuts, Woodridge Close, Haywards Heath, RH16 3EP.

Lunch boxes

Becky Cook, also known as The Garden Chef, started helping after hearing from her friend Georgia Aloof, a physio at PRH, and her sister-in-law who works at King’s College Hospital, what a miserable time they were having. She started by sending in a box of brownies and cakes.

“Georgia told me it had been a really grim week so I decided to do pack lunches for all those in ICU. When we are busy we never eat properly but good food can be such a boost so I made boxed lunches, sandwiches, cake, fresh doughnuts, sausage rolls and Georgia took them up to the ward. She reported that everyone had loved them and I really wanted to carry on.”

Becky put a post on her Facebook and Instagram pages seeking sponsorship for the lunch boxes, and was blown away by the amazing response from her clients who stepped up to show their support.

“I had to stop people sending me money because I had enough! Children were sending pocket money and everyone so wanted to help, it was wonderful. I have now teamed up with some local businesses to give some little extras in the boxes too, vouchers and little gifts which is fantastic. I hope the food not only gives a physical boost on a busy shift but also is a little reminder that so many people are thinking of them and supporting them, it’s that big hug in cake form.”

To make a donation to Andrew’s fundraiser, visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/andrew-hebditch?utm_term=kmKrA2rQw.