STAFF at Dorset County Hospital say the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the 'true meaning and value of community spirit', and have thanked the public for its overwhelming generosity since the outbreak began.

They want to express their 'heartfelt thanks' to the community after being inundated with donations and messages of support and kindness throughout the pandemic.

Since the country entered lockdown, communities have rallied together to show their appreciation for the NHS and to help support staff through what may be the most challenging time of their career.

The trust has received hundreds of donations and says they've made a 'huge' difference.

More than £158,000 has also been raised through the DCH Charity’s Covid-19 Appeal.

Businesses have provided free accommodation and personal protective equipment (PPE), staff have received 'endless' gifts which have 'brightened' their days - from chocolate to hand cream - and wards have been decorated with children’s colourful illustrations of rainbows.

Acting chief executive at DCH, Nick Johnson, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has been one of the biggest challenges faced by the NHS.

“We have been completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of donations and support we have received from right across Dorset over the past few months.

“The pandemic has highlighted the true meaning and value of community spirit and we will be forever grateful to all those who have supported us through it.

“We will repay that kindness and support in any way we can over the coming months.”

Hannah Robinson, volunteer co-ordinator at the hospital, has seen first-hand the difference the donations have made to the staff.

Hannah, along with a small, dedicated team of volunteers, have been coordinating and distributing the ongoing donations across the trust during the pandemic.

She said: “We have been completely blown away by the generosity of local businesses, schools and communities in Dorset who have gone above and beyond to support their NHS.

“The reaction received from staff is something I will never forget. It has been so heart-warming to see the smiles brought to their faces. Knowing they had the support of the community behind them has made a significant difference.

“The response we have also received from appeals has been absolutely brilliant. So many people have made us headbands, mask adapters, knitted teddies, face coverings and more.

“We cannot thank everyone enough for everything they have done for the trust.”