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The Story Of Good Neighbours

By Andrew McMenemy, Chief People Officer, West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

I started working at Watford General Hospital, part of West Herts NHS Trust, in April 2020. It was just as the pandemic was to change everything with particular focus on health services.

In my first week, I was asked to meet representatives of Watford Football Club to discuss their offer of support to their local hospital.

What started as an introductory meeting developed into a plan to support the 4,000 staff based at Watford General Hospital. The Club had received numerous offers of help from their fan base to support their local hospital in their time of greatest need.

At this first meeting, I remember asking what and how the Club was looking to support the hospital and being surprised at how much was being offered to help our staff. The response I got was, ‘what do you need?’

The hospital staff were adapting extremely quickly to a unique and concerning situation with the pandemic. Normal daily activities ceased, but the NHS kept going.

The wellbeing of our staff was my main priority, and the Club offered rest and relaxation facilities 24/7 in the stadium corporate facilities. This included complimentary breakfasts and lunches as well as counselling rooms and laundry facilities. Parts of the stadium were renamed ‘The Sanctuary’ during the initial period of support and this is exactly what it meant for our staff who were dealing with the impact of the pandemic every minute of every day.

This support led to an ongoing partnership between the hospital and the Club that continues to this day. We support and help each other as recognised and respected organisations in our local community.

I was proud of the lap of honour that was held in August 2021 when almost 500 hospital staff came out of work to take a standing ovation at half-time during the first premiership game of the season. This was one of the most emotional times I have experienced and gave an opportunity to thank the staff after the most challenging 18 months.

The legacy created based on this partnership is something the staff at Watford General Hospital will never forget and continues to this day. I am forever grateful to Watford Football Club and the fans who volunteered their support and provided care for the staff at their local hospital. Thanks Watford FC, we are all fans.