FATHER Christmas traded his sleigh and reindeer in for a Puma HC2 helicopter as he made a flying visit to Oxford Children's Hospital.

Joined by members of RAF Benson’s Puma Force this morning, Santa visited wards to hand out presents to our young patients spending time in hospital this festive season.

He also caught up with staff to find out who's been naughty and nice.

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Erica Watson, senior play specialist at the hospital, said: “It can be particularly hard at Christmas for children and their families spending time in hospitals, so we try to make it as enjoyable as possible.

“Lots of children and staff enjoyed watching Santa arrive by helicopter, in what is a highlight around Christmas for them all.

Oxford Mail:

“Christmas gifts make a big difference to our patients in hospital at this time of year, so we’re extremely grateful to RAF Benson, the Puma Force, and Santa for their continued support and donations.”

Santa was dropped off at the John Radcliffe helipad at 9am today.

He and his helpers then made their way up to the wards with a sack full of presents.

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Ellie Richardson, six, who is in a wheelchair, pulled out a Playmobil pirate ship set to sail away on high-seas adventures.

Nine-year-old Olivia Roche, meanwhile, picked up a monstrous Gruffalo jigsaw puzzle to keep her occupied for weeks to come.

Group Captain Wardrope, Station Commander RAF Benson and Puma Force Commander, said: “We were thrilled to help Santa deliver presents to all those spending time on the children’s wards at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Oxford Mail:

“At RAF Benson we know how hard Christmas can be when you are away from home and your loved ones. Helping Santa deliver his Christmas presents is something we look forward to doing throughout the year, and there’s never a shortage of volunteers to help.”

Located on the John Radcliffe Hospital site in Headington, the Children's Hospital was founded in 2007 after a massive fundraising campaign.

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A 10th anniversary fundraising campaign launched in 2017 successfully raised £2 million to help new patient monitor systems.

The money has also funded new microbiology equipment to quickly diagnose meningitis in just two hours (rather than two days), and a new 62-bedroom Ronald McDonald House for parents to stay close to their poorly youngsters and to fund other vital equipment.

It still regularly takes donations through the Oxford Hospitals Charity.