The opportunity of what is now just a single day of relaxed coronavirus rules has brought comfort to some who will be able to reunite with loved ones in a “Christmas bubble”.
But for patients cooped-up in hospital wards away from whatever festive hustle and bustle can be safely achieved, this time of year can be a lonely and isolated experience.
With visitations being limited to a minimum due to the pandemic, Inverness Hospital Radio has decided to bring families together through the magic of radio and music.
The station, which is broadcast on patient-line units at Raigmore hospital, is urging people to submit a song request as a special gift to a loved one.
The annual Christmas initiative is usually led by ward visitors and presenters, who go around the hospital wards several days a week to meet patients and collect all the song requests and the personal messages they would like to share on air.
The requested “favourite tunes” are played every night to “cheer the patients” and brighten their days.
However, with various restrictions put in place to keep the premises “as safe as possible” this year, the radio has had to rely solely on social media to reach out to their listeners.
A little bit of joy
Terry Henderson, who has been a presenter and program controller on the hospital radio for 35 years, said that even so, they continue to serve and support the hospital community as best they can.
He said: “There is only so much we can do unfortunately. We can’t go meet the patients, we can’t get their song requests in person and we can’t speak to them face-to-face.
“But we are trying to send the message to them, their families and friends, and the general public, that, despite all of that, we are still in the studio and we are doing our best to give them a little bit of joy and comfort during these difficult times.
“We want as many people to get in touch and request a song for that special person who is spending the holidays in the hospital, because it makes such a difference to each and every one of them.
“Hospital radio has always been important, but now I think it’s needed more than ever.
He added: “The reason why we’ve got the station, why we put all the time and energy into it, and why all the volunteers come in, is to be there for the patients.
“Being in a hospital can be hard and lonely, so we try to make their stay that little bit more pleasant – even if that’s just by talking to them and playing their favourite music.”
The radio station has been offering reassurance and a “cheery voice” of comfort to Raigmore Hospital’s patients since 1970.
Last month, the team celebrated the 50th anniversary of the station, with a number of volunteers receiving certificates for their service.
Co-founder of Inverness Hospital Radio, Donnie Aird, was presented with a 50 Years of Service award by the Hospital Broadcasting Association in recognition of his dedication and contribution to the station.
From the humble beginnings of one broadcast per week, the organisation has now progressed to a 24-hour service with new equipment, dedicated schedules and the creation of a website.
However, the purpose of the broadcasting service has remained the same throughout the years – to make a difference to the patients’ lives during their stay in the hospital.
“We are a friendly voice to make their day better,” Mr Henderson said.
“And even though we have different presenters, with different voices, the message is the same – we’re here for them, and only them, to play their favourite music, cheer them up and make their day.
“We’ve had patients, who have been in the hospital for seven weeks or even more, who would recognise our voices from the radio and say how much they enjoy listening to our shows every day.
“And that’s what makes our work worthwhile.
“As long as there is at least one person listening to us and as long as we’ve put a smile on somebody’s face, we will always be there for them.”
People can request a song for their loved one by contacting the Inverness Hospital Radio on their website and social media, as well as on 01463 704500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patients at Raigmore Hospital can also get in touch free of charge by dialling 800 from their bedside phone.