WHILE many of us begin to tuck into our Christmas dinners on December 25, pulling crackers after a morning of opening presents under the tree, arguably those most deserving of a break will be in the midst of what - to them - is a "normal day at the office".

2020 has been incredibly tough for everyone, but hospital and other NHS workers in particular have faced a challenging and distressing 10 months.

This won't stop the hardworking and dedicated staff at the Royal Berkshire Hospital (RBH) NHS Foundation Trust - and other hospitals up and down the country - from being on duty this Christmas Day, caring for poorly and vulnerable patients.

Speaking about what Christmas Day is like for RBH staff, a spokesperson said: "Staffing levels do not differ and our dedicated staff who will be on duty this Christmas as it’s business as usual, but with some festive spirit where possible.

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"Boxing day tends to be busier of the two day over the Christmas day period."

In terms of Christmas preparation and visits during the pandemic, RBH are doing all they can to find a balance, continuing to protect staff, volunteers and patients.

For those wishing to visit their loved ones in hospital, RBH officials advise following the latest visitor guidance:

Only one visitor per patient at any one time

Essential visits only - e.g. for patients at the end of life or those with dementia or a learning disability

Please arrange this visit with the ward manager or nurse in charge

In addition, to anyone who displays any symptoms of the virus (high temperature, new continuous cough, loss of taste and smell) RBH is asking not to visit.

Further advice and guidance can be found on the website.

When asked what normally happens with staff during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, RBH representatives told The Chronicle: "Christmas celebrations began with the annual blessing and lighting of the Christmas tree, which was kindly donated by the Trust’s League of Friends along with some socially distanced carols.

"The usual festive celebrations and visits have sadly had to be reduced to ensure patient and staff safety."

They added that the local community has been "incredibly generous" over the course of this year, providing staff with a wide range of home cooked and restaurant meals, treats and non-alcoholic drinks, for which staff have been incredibly grateful.

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They added: "On Christmas day, the catering department will be putting on a Christmas lunch for staff working, and through the voluntary services Christmas Gift Tree appeal, the Trust is ensuring that all our patients who are with us on Christmas day will receive a present. "Some of our volunteers are in helping to wrap and helping and distribute the gifts to our wards ready for the big day.

"The Trust is also creating a Christmas message template which will be shared on the Trust website for families and friends to send messages to their loved ones who are with us over Christmas.

"The messages will be hand delivered to the patients.

"In addition, the Royal Berks Charity and the Trust catering team generously supported the funding of staff goodie bags to say thank you for their incredible hard work and the amazing effort they have all put in, during what has been a very challenging year."

The trust's final message to locals during this festive time is to help keep the NHS safe but also to look after themselves and their families, by following government advice and remembering Hands, Face and Space!