RDASH is a mental health and community NHS Trust. We provide a range of services for people with differing needs, some who have difficulties that are compounded by poverty, homelessness, isolation and loneliness.
This becomes more evident within winter months around the Christmas and New Year period. I have been very fortunate to have had some time off this Christmas to spend with my family. However, for a number of years I have worked over the Christmas and New Year period in A&E and acute mental health services and know that as well as the paid work our staff (as well as many NHS staff) provide, many staff give far more in terms of hours and also donations to support people they see.
As a part of #ChangeWeek 2017 many of our staff made pledges for change. In relation to the above issue, inspired by the #ReverseAdventCalendar idea shared by Kenny Gibson I wanted to work with others to try and provide some support via donations to people who are less fortunate around the Christmas period.
The idea of a #ReverseAdventCalendar is that people donate items on the days leading up to Christmas, these typically are then sent in boxes to hostels /shelters for distribution. Rather than boxes I wanted to look at packing rucksacks – these can be worn and so are useful for those who have transient lifestyles, and they also discreetly hide contents.
I initially bought and donated 50 rucksacks to be filled. I worked with our wonderful Trust communications Team to coordinate a plea to our Trust members and staff to filling them. We particularly communicated with staff who often say they would rather donate to charity than send Christmas cards.
We were overwhelmed by the response. All 50 rucksacks were booked to fill within the 1st 7 days.
Consequently the Trust CEO, Workforce Director and Finance Director personally bought and donated 20 more rucks each, enabling more to be filled. The work went so well we finished on the 23rd December with 120 rucksacks full of food, toiletries and hats and gloves.
In addition to these full rucksacks, with additional donations we received we were also able to make up a large number of separate specific small packs which could be added to the rucksacks where appropriate.
What we know is that there are often unique problems for people who are without permanent housing, therefore the small packs we made were personalised to support:
(1) feminine hygiene needs;
(2) sexual health and contraception needs;
(3) foot care and foot health products and
(4) dog care packs.
As well as the rucksacks, a number of sweets, toys, clothes and larger food items were donated which could not be used in the rucksacks – but we managed to fill 10 big family dinner bags (for families of 5+) and 4 big boxes of toys for our Health Visiting and Children’s Nurses to distribute to those families who are struggling at Christmas and may have experienced problems such as emergency displacement.
All rucksacks & bags have now been distributed to our teams who have contact over the festive period with homeless patients, drug and alcohol service users who suffer poverty, as well as to our child and adult urgent care teams.
The #ReverseAdventCalendar ‘change’ action appears to have been well received and has been something that staff have very much supported. It has enabled support and a community spirit which reduced risk over the festive period, and it also has hopefully reduced the amount of personal donations that our urgent care staff who work over the bank holiday periods have spent out of their own money. We are looking at repeating this in the future.
Very best wishes to all you Fab Health and Social Care Teams for 2018!
If you would like to know more about the change that we have made please contact Jude Graham – [email protected]t or via Twitter @Jude_Graham_