Ex-Warrington Wolves, St Helens & Wigan Warriors aces among Super League stars past and present supporting NHS staff this Christmas

Ben Olawumi
Paul Wood, Amy Hardcastle, Bob Beswick

Paul Wood (Left), Amy Hardcastle (Middle) & Bob Beswick (Right) are all supporting the NHS via RL Cares - Alamy

Current England ace Amy Hardcastle and former Super League stars Paul Wood & Bob Beswick are amongst those providing support to our NHS staff this Christmas via the ‘Rugby League Cares’ charity.

The trio are part of the ‘Rugby League Cares for NHS‘ programme, which launched in October 2021 and is designed to ensure NHS staff remain happy, healthy and productive both at work and in their home lives.

Eight venues across the North West are now enrolled in the programme after three were successfully tested out in a pilot scheme, with rugby league stepping up to engage with those who have been on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19 over the last few years.

Ex-Warrington Wolves, St Helens & Wigan Warriors aces among Super League stars past and present supporting NHS staff this Christmas

Warrington Wolves legend Wood is a full-time member of staff for RL Cares, and is the programme manager for this partnership between the sport and the NHS having previously delivered a mental fitness programme, ‘Offload’.

Speaking to the RFL’s website, two-time Challenge Cup winner Wood said: “It’s easy to assume that because they are working in the medical profession, NHS staff possess all the knowledge they need to look after themselves.

“They are all under so much pressure and stress, and spend so much of their working day focusing on improving the health of patients, that their own wellbeing often ends up being put on the backburner.

RL Cares for NHS aims to remind them how important it is to look after themselves. The biggest cause of absenteeism within the NHS is stress, so we try to give them tools and techniques they can use to become, and stay, healthy.

“Two key areas we have identified are sleep and nutrition, both of which go hand in hand.  Stress can lead people to make poor food choices, which in turn impacts on their ability to enjoy quality sleep.

“Not sleeping well adds to stress levels and creates a vicious cycle that can be hard to get out of.”

Paul Wood: ‘We all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our NHS heroes’

Ex-Toronto Wolfpack ace Bob Beswick and current Leeds Rhinos star Amy Hardcastle are among those involved in the programme alongside Wood.

Hardcastle worked as an NHS healthcare assistant at Calderdale Hospital in Halifax until a few years ago, spending time on the frontline during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Wood added: “My view of the NHS has changed massively since I got involved. I’ve always had a huge respect, but working alongside the medical personnel, the managers, the directors and staff at every level, it’s impossible not to be blown away by the passion and commitment they have for what they do.

“The biggest eye-opener for me is the never-ending nature of what goes on and the struggle everyone faces in meeting the expectations on the service, especially given how understaffed they all are.

“The NHS is short of staff in virtually every department and the work levels are crazy. It’s easy to see why so many people fall ill with stress and why staff retention is as difficult as it is.

“The most rewarding aspect of the RL Cares for NHS programme is the difference it’s making.  The feedback we receive after every session is incredibly positive and we are constantly told that the teams we work with now have high levels of togetherness about them.

“NHS staff tell us they are better at coping with stress, that they are now looking out for each other more and that their lives feel more rewarding, both at work and at home.”

“We’re in a privileged position to be able to help and it’s very rewarding and uplifting to be involved with such a brilliant group of people. We all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our NHS heroes.”

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