Winner was clear to see as Eye Hospital team is crowned most festive department of 2019

the Ophthalmology Outpatients team have been delivering a festive treat every day this December for patients young and old
The Ophthalmology Outpatients team have been delivering a festive treat every day this December for patients young and old.

A passing comment made by a patient with sight difficulties has led to a team of eye specialists being named Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s most festive ward or department of 2019.

Last December, an elderly lady told a staff member from the Ophthalmology Outpatients department how she had a tin of rice pudding for Christmas dinner and didn’t see or speak to anyone all day.

This led Sister Katy Rutter and her 115-strong team to ensure this lady and many more like her had a much more positive festive experience this year.

The Ophthalmology Outpatients team have been delivering a festive treat every day this December for patients young and old, from visits from Father Christmas and lindy hop dancers to school choir performances and knitting group sessions.

Clinic festivities and decorations
Clinic festivities and decorations.

The team has been busy decorating too and, with the theme of The Polar Express, the reception desk has been transformed into a ticket office where younger travellers are each given a golden train ticket inviting them to ‘Believe’. A huge cardboard steam engine stands in the outpatients waiting area and there’s a 6ft sign for the North Pole. Add in free mince pies bought by staff and offered daily to patients, sensory gifts bought by staff for visually impaired children and a Christmas tree decorated with glasses, and it becomes clear to see why the team took this year’s crown.

Beverley Geary, Chief Nurse, judged all of the entries received into the competition this year.

She says: “This is the fourth year in which we’ve run the competition and the teams who enter seem to get more inventive and imaginative every year. While decorations are great, there’s a much more important side to the friendly rivalry the competition creates between teams, and that’s the efforts they make to deliver a great experience for our patients and fellow staff members.

“While the entries were outstanding again this year, the Ophthalmology Outpatients team have clearly put a lot of thought into making a positive difference for patients who may be only with them for a few minutes per visit. 

“It’s been a real privilege to judge the competition and to see and hear from staff across Hull Royal Infirmary, Hull Women and Children’s Hospital and Castle Hill how teams have really pulled together and delivered a positive difference in the well-being and the recovery of their patients.”

As the winning department for 2019, the Ophthalmology Outpatients team will be presented with a luxury hamper to share and given temporary custody of the Dr Hermon Cup. The cup dates back to 1938, when the then-famous radiologist presented the shiny silver trophy to the best decorated ward in the old Anlaby Road Hospital. 

For reasons unknown, the cup then became ‘lost’ alongside other photos and artefacts in the hospital archive, until it was found in 2016 by Mr Colin Vize, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon.  The trophy was promptly dusted off, polished up, and is now used as an incentive for staff to go the extra festive mile for patients. 

Katy Rutter, Sister with the Ophthalmology Outpatients team has remarked how much of a difference it has made to her patients and staff: “I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of my team. I have always felt lucky to manage them, however this project of ours has really shown me they are very special. Staff have made such an effort, morale has had a big boost and relationships between team members are stronger than I have ever known. It really has had such a beneficial effect on all of us.

“We are already planning what we can continue into the New Year for patients and staff. It has shown to have had such a positive impact on people’s mental health that we want to continue this into the darker months of winter which follow Christmas.

“Had it not been for the Dr Hermon Cup competition, we would not have gone to such efforts with our festive plans, but by doing so we have reconnected with our patients and with each other.”

Neuro rehabilitation Ward 29 and the Radiotherapy Team, both based at the Queen’s Centre, Castle Hill Hospital, were chosen as this year’s runners up. 

Occupational Therapy and nursing staff on Ward 29 have seen first-hand how crafting Christmas decorations has led to improvements in manual dexterity and cognitive rehabilitation among patients recovering from brain injury . At the end of each craft group, their patients have regularly been clamouring to continue making decorations, further enhancing their recovery. 

The Radiotherapy Team, who won the competition last year, themed their efforts around the “Twelve Days of Christmas Kindness”, delivering something different for patients in each of the 12 days leading up to December 25th, including home baking, positivity notes and a Christmas card for all patients. 

Beverley adds: “Many staff end up sacrificing their own time with friends and family over the festive season because they’re busy caring for others, so the competition is a good way of bringing people together and rewarding their efforts to provide patients with a more positive experience while they’re here. 

“I genuinely loved seeing the difference our competing teams have made, and I’m incredibly proud of all of them.”

[Rachel Johnson – Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust]