Beds, Herts & Bucks

NHS staff thank Watford FC with 'clap for the club'

Clap for the Club, Watford FC Image copyright Watford FC
Image caption Hundreds of hospital staff stood and applauded more than 100 Watford FC volunteers to thank them for their support

NHS staff gathered in Watford FC's stadium to applaud a Premier League club for its help during the coronavirus pandemic.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust hosted "Clap for the Club" at Vicarage Road on Friday to thank the Hornets for their "kindness and generosity".

The club has provided more than 40,000 free meals plus bedrooms and meeting rooms for NHS staff and washed scrubs.

The trust has thanked them for helping staff "relax and recuperate".

Image copyright West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust
Image caption The club provided "a real home from home for staff", the hospital trust said

Watford FC opened its doors on 17 April to all trust staff, many of whom are based at neighbouring Watford General Hospital.

The hospital had asked to use the club's meeting rooms to plan its Covid-19 response but it soon became a full-blown wellbeing facility, dubbed Team West Herts Sanctuary.

As well as breakfast and lunch, overnight accommodation, seating areas, counselling rooms and spaces to be alone were provided.

Image copyright West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust
Image caption All trust staff were able to swap busy wards and offices for an empty terrace overlooking the pitch

Trust chief executive, Christine Allen, said it was "hard to put into words the difference this has made to our staff".

"The fact that the club made it happen when we needed it most is a testament to them," she said.

"As we enter our recovery phase, we need to find a "new normal" and let the club get back to its business."

Image copyright West Herts Hospitals Trust
Image caption About 1,000 pairs of scrubs were washed in the club's laundry room every day
Image copyright West Herts Hospitals Trust
Image caption The trust's chaplaincy team created a memorial room to remember those who had been lost during the pandemic

Any staff who were able to, headed to the Rookery stand on Friday afternoon.

"We want to say thank you to our lovely neighbours and all the WFC staff who volunteered their time to look after our staff and help them relax and recuperate," the trust said.

From Friday, the club's hot food service will end but the doors will remain open for NHS staff for the next few months.

The maternity service will also continue to run newborn hearing screening and antenatal clinics at the club until the end of August.

Image copyright West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust
Image caption Club chief executive Scott Duxbury said "we are there for them in the same way that they are there for all of us"

Watford's chief executive Scott Duxbury said it had been a "privilege to support the hospital" but it now had focus on the return of Premier League games.

"[Our staff's] compassion and desire to help was humbling and shows that the true values of this club are very much alive," he said.

"The hospital know they can rely on us. We are there for them in the same way that they are there for all of us."

Image copyright West Herts Hospitals Trust
Image caption Trust chief executive, Christine Allen, said she thought the club "might have a few more cheering them on" when the club opened its doors to supporters again
Image copyright West Herts Hospitals Trust
Image caption The facilities at Watford FC became known as the Sanctuary

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