Published: 16/12/2004, Volume II4, No. 5936 Page 32

Stephen Flat, lead chaplain of a multi-faith team at St Mary's trust, London.

'I tend to come in at around 9am for a Church of England communion service.

We have a lovely Eucharist on Christmas Day morning with carols. Seeing the joy that some patients get from the carol service makes it all worthwhile.

'After that we gather in the main foyer of the hospital and have carol singing around the Christmas tree. It is something the chair and chief executive invite everyone to. We get all the consultants and general managers and as many patients as possible. There are normally about 50 people.

'Then I go and see as many patients in the ward as possible to have a little chat and see if There is anything I can do for them. Often my kids come along. A lot of the older patients enjoy speaking with younger people.

'Then, at about 1pm when the patients start getting their lunch, It is home to celebrate Christmas with my own family.

But I am still on call.

'There are some very sad times. When people die on Christmas Day and you're there with the family at a family time of year it makes it all the more felt. But there are also very happy times. Once we did carol singing, and on one ward was a Muslim mother with her newborn, she started singing and it reminded me what it was all about: the infant Jesus.'