A Sunderland hospital chaplain has been honoured for her outstanding communiuty service in the Queen’s 2019 Birthday Honours.
Linda Longstaff, 68, works for South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.
She has been nominated for an MBE after almost 30 years’ service to the Catholic Church and for her support of a range of community projects.
Linda became one of the first female Eucharistic Ministers at St Hilda’s Church in Southwick in 1985 after the birth of her three daughters and went on to become a lay leader.
During this time she was also a full time carer for her daughter, Charlotte, who had severe disabilities after contracting meningitis as a child.
She learned British Sign Language to help her communicate with Charlotte and used this skill to create Signed with Love, a group for deaf and hearing children that mixed sign language with music and dance.
The group became a huge success going out into the community and fundraising for local charities. Linda went on to work in local schools to support children with learning disabilities and in 1999 brought together 1,000 children at the Stadium of Light to sign songs for the Millennium celebrations.
In 2002, Linda suffered two cardiac arrests and had to undergo triple heart bypass surgery. It was during her time in Sunderland Royal Hospital that she met Chaplain, Peter Webb who went on to offer her a job within the hospital Chaplaincy.
Linda has been in this role for the last 16 years and supports patients and their families in a range of situations, including end of life care, the loss of a baby or offering general visits and a listening ear.
She also works in the hospital’s Alexandra Unit, a therapy centre for patients with dementia and delirium.
Linda provides weekly sessions with patients to tap into their memories and senses, including baking Christmas cakes and bringing boxes with popular childhood items.
The therapy sessions have been a huge success with patients.
‘I am extremely grateful and humbled’
She will be invited to attend a special ceremony to mark the investiture of her MBE in the coming months.
“Words cannot describe how surprised I was to receive the letter confirming that I had been nominated for an MBE,” she said.
“At first I didn’t believe it, but once the initial shock had worn off, I was deeply honoured to think that someone would consider me worthy of such a special accolade.
“I am privileged to be in a position to support people and provide some comfort when they need it most and very lucky to work with the Chaplaincy Team who has given me so much support.
“I am not sure that anything I have done can be classed as extraordinary, especially when you see the remarkable efforts of colleagues working across the Trust.
“But I am extremely grateful and humbled to be nominated and am very much looking forward to travelling to the palace.”