PEOPLE across Oxfordshire are being urged to help spread festive cheer to patients spending Christmas in hospital this year despite the pandemic.

Every year, generous groups and individuals in the county donate toys and gifts for patients of all ages at the John Radcliffe, Churchill, Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, Horton General Hospital and Oxford Children’s Hospital.

But this December, the festive toy and gift drops cannot take place as usual due to Covid-19 restrictions within the hospitals.

Oxford Hospitals Charity, working alongside Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) which runs the hospitals, has instead launched a virtual gift giving scheme to ensure Christmas fun on the wards can continue.

ALSO READ: A mum, 45 who only learnt to swim last year is completing a 'swimathon' for charity

Emily Waddell, community fundraising manager at Oxford Hospitals Charity said: “This year has been like no other and our local hospitals have been at the forefront of many people’s minds in the past months. And as we approach Christmas we know many kind people in our local community would be planning to donate wonderful gifts for children in hospital and for our older patients, visits that are normally the highlight of our year.”

She added: “Sadly, this year gift drops to the Oxford Children’s Hospital and other hospital areas will not be possible, but we are sure those incredibly generous people who normally support us in this way will understand that the safety of our patients and staff has to come first.

Oxford Mail:

Oxford Children's Hospital. Twelve-year-old Reece Winstone with student nurse Martha Dobson celebrating Christmas before Covid. Picture: Jon Lewis/Oxford Hospitals Charity

“We still want to make sure that Christmas cheer reaches across every inch of hospitals, and so we have created a way to give a virtual gift.”

People can visit to donate the cost of a toy for a child, a gift for an older patient or support one of the many projects the charity is working on to make the county’s hospitals more comfortable and welcoming for patients.

Ms Waddell said: “All toys and gifts purchased have been carefully chosen by our amazing team of play specialists and staff who work with older patients, and so you are safe in the knowledge that your donation will be making a real difference to the patients that need them most.

“We really hope the local community will help get behind this Christmas campaign and show that whatever is going on in the world, there is still time to raise a smile on the face of someone in hospital.”

ALSO READ: MP ‘needs to listen to the people’ after school meals vote

Erica Watson, lead play specialist at Oxford Children’s Hospital, said all the staff were ‘so grateful’ for support received from the community throughout Covid.

She said: “The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has meant that we have had to think differently about how we can support our young patients and so are encouraging our supporters to gift a virtual gift through Oxford Hospitals Charity this year instead.

"We want to extend our thanks to all supporters and look forward to seeing some familiar faces in 2021.”

As well as the hospitals charity website people can also call 01865 743 444 for more information.