Diocese of Portsmouth

    Royal recognition for hospital chaplain

    4 March 2021

    HRH Prince William rang the lead chaplain of the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth to thank her for supporting patients during the current pandemic.

    The Rev Dawn Banting had a telephone conversation with HRH the Duke of Cambridge, to share details of her experience during Covid, and the chaplaincy team’s thoughts about delivering support to staff and patients during this difficult time.

    Dawn, who was previously a curate at Portsmouth Cathedral, began working part-time at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust four years ago and later became lead chaplain. During the pandemic, she and the team have been a vital part of the support offered. The phone call was an opportunity to talk about the type of care and support they have given.

    Dawn said: “There is often so little we can do to change the pandemic, but providing a listening ear, holding a hand, or wiping a tear, can make all the difference. We have always looked after our staff, patients and their families, but during this pandemic the depth of need from the staff has changed considerably. It’s not giving advice or talking to people; it’s coming alongside and letting them tell you what they want and need.”

    During the call, Dawn shared more on the work the team have been doing to support pastoral care for both patients and staff. She said, “During the pandemic it has felt like our presence has been needed more than ever. Many of our colleagues have been coming to us to disclose that they are struggling, but despite this there has been a real feeling of everyone coming together.

    “I spoke to His Royal Highness about what the trust was doing to support us, as we recognise everyone will have their own personal commitments on top of work, so many have not had the opportunity for the downtime they need. It was interesting to reflect on the impact the pandemic has had on me both professionally and personally. Sometimes I think back to when I was coming in seven days a week and supporting some incredibly emotive situations and wonder how I did it. But so many of us did do it and now it is about supporting each other as we come out of it.”

    During the pandemic Dawn was faced with personal loss too with the passing of her friend and colleague Father Biji, a much loved and respected chaplain at the trust. She shared how this impacted her and without the support of those around her including the bereavement services and mortuary teams she would have found it harder to get through.

    Dawn also shared how after seeing colleagues from other faiths struggling to find the space needed to social distance during Ramadan, she sought the support from the trust board in finding a dedicated multi-faith space within Queen Alexandra Hospital. She added, “We have a really strong bond of camaraderie within the trust, and although many of us wouldn’t have envisaged working through this all over again we have and with a new resilience.”

    His Royal Highness thanked Dawn and her team for the sacrifices they have made to support others and keep moral raised throughout the pandemic. He also expressed his thanks and best wishes to everyone at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust.

    “It was such an honour and privilege to speak to His Royal Highness. I hadn’t told any of my team so looking forward to sharing the great news with them now.” she said.

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