OXFORDSHIRE'S favourite secret Santa is once again launching her festive collection for people stuck in care homes, hospitals and hospices this Christmas.

But 18-year-old Courtney Hughes also has to find time for her day job – working as a nursing assistant at Sobell House Hospice in Headington.

As we continue our campaign to raise £40,000 for Sobell, Courtney told Pete Hughes why she wanted to help some of the county's most vulnerable people.

"MOST people go into nursing and care for people to make them better, so they can go home.

"With palliative care you just try make their last hours or weeks really memorable."

Courtney Hughes is just 18, and she was only 17 when she started working at Sobell House, but there is something about this permanently positive teenager's spirit that refuses to be daunted by the prospect of working with the terminally-ill.

"I'm quite a talkative person so I like to get involved with families and I've had lots of opportunities to do that.

"Everyone's got a life story, you'd be amazed at some of the patients that have been through here, what their jobs were – they often just want to chat and it's nice for the family to hear someone who is dying able to tell their story."

Courtney, who lives in Great Western Drive in Didcot with her mum Claire and dad Lee, started working at Sobell House after finishing her childcare course at Abingdon and Witney College.

She had to go through the normal job application process like everyone else, and she admits she is much younger than most of her colleagues, but something about her impressed managers and they took her on.

Courtney's inspiration for going into care was the same as her inspiration for starting her secret Santa collection when she was just 13: her great nan.

Courtney visited her nan Elise Richardson when she was stuck in the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford over Christmas and took her a present.

The reaction she got inspired her so much she has pretty much dedicated her life since then to trying to bring that same joy to thousands of other people.

Courtney now works full-time at Sobell despite battling chronic fatigue syndrome.

She admits that the job can be difficult.

"It's quite busy, and it's a demanding job, but it's rewarding because you've made that person feel better about themselves.

"It is stressful sometimes, but you have to bite your lip and wait until you get home to let it out."

As part of her secret Santa this year Courtney will be collecting presents for patients at Sobell House as well as a dozen other hospitals and care homes.

She launched her collection last week and said: "It's going really well – I've already had people emailing, messaging me and calling up to make donations."

Asked why she carried on doing her collection with so much else on her plate she said: "It's because they're not at home at Christmas.

"It's nice to be able to support people in any way possible, event if it's just the smallest thing, it can cheer someone up."