Watford lighten the load for NHS staff at Vicarage Road

The markings on the pitch may have faded, and the footballers may not have been spotted for weeks, but there was at least one song emanating from the stands at Vicarage Road: a chorus of “Happy birthday to you”, sung from a group of NHS staff to a bashful colleague as they relaxed in the stadium seats.

It is not quite the soft-voiced chant you might expect to hear in a Premier League arena, yet these truly are the most unusual circumstances. For football, for society and especially for the staff at Watford General Hospital, who have been given the opportunity to swap their wards and departments for the facilities and views at Vicarage Road.

Watford have opened their doors to local health workers, providing them with conference rooms, converted bedrooms, laundry services and, most importantly of all, a place for nurses and doctors to step away from the chaos of coronavirus.

“These are unprecedented times,” says Theresa Maunganidze, a surgical specialist nurse. “Everybody is under stress. As nurses, we are there to care for patients and to see them get better, but when you know people are dying, no matter how much you try to help them, it is daunting.

“We are the ones who are there for the patients in their last days. There are no relatives around. It is intense and emotionally draining. Having that break, to come out here for fresh air, to come to a place that is not a hospital, to chat and laugh and share some experiences and reflect on the day, it has been amazing to have this facility.”

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