CHRISTMAS joy was spread to patients who spent their Christmas in hospital as part of an annual tradition.

Members of the Halstead Hospital League of Friends popped into the hospital on Christmas Day to give some presents to the patients there.

Among those visiting on the day was League of Friends chairman Alan Symington and vice-chairman and town mayor Jackie Pell.

Mrs Pell said: “I was in there for my capacity as mayor and vice-chairman of the League of Friends, and it was a pleasure to visit on Christmas Day.

“We have always done it and it was great renewing the tradition we have always done, and we have done it now for 40 odd years.

“It was lovely to see the patients, as some of them weren’t receiving any visitors over the Christmas period, they were using the TV’s we bought for them, and we also delivered some mobile phones to get in contact with relations.

“It is always something I have loved doing."

The hospital reopened its doors for the first time in two years at the beginning of December and was welcomed by the community and Halstead and Braintree MP James Cleverly.

Having been closed since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, there had been fears for the future of the hospital.

The beginning of the pandemic saw facilities transferred to Braintree Community Hospital and later the introduction of ‘virtual wards’ by Provide, which runs the hospital, in March 2021.

The ward supports those needing rehabilitation after surgery or a decline in their conditions, but pandemic changes instead saw patients sent straight home from hospital.

Now the ward has reopened on a four-month contract which will see services provided until the end of March next year, with the future still uncertain.

Mrs Pell said: “The patients we saw in there were local to the Braintree district, and it is good to know they are in there in our hospital, as it belongs to the league of friends.

“We were happy to see it reopen before and are determined for it to stay that way come March.”