At this special time of year, I’d like to pause for a moment to reflect on the incredible achievements of the NHS – in particular, staff at the Royal Free London – during 2021.

Last December we were about to embark on the most challenging few months in the history of the NHS and our staff went to extraordinary lengths to help those most in need.

Across the course of this devastating pandemic, we have treated more than 6,000 patients with Covid-19 and witnessed first-hand the impact it has had on individuals and their loved ones.

I would like to pay tribute to the incredible compassion, commitment and resilience of my colleagues over the past year – their efforts for our patients and their families have been awe-inspiring.

We take great pride in our position in the heart of the communities we serve and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank your readers for the support they have given us over the past two years.

Quite rightly, we have introduced stricter infection control procedures and limited visiting to our buildings which have meant they have been much quieter than usual. But the countless messages of gratitude and recognition have really made a difference to us all and we have felt you with us in spirit.

Not only was 2021 a year of managing the Covid-19 crisis it was a year of recovery and we have been doing everything in our power to get the NHS back on track.

To those who have waited longer than we would like to be seen – thank you for your patience and understanding. We haven’t forgotten you and we’re working incredibly hard to ensure you receive the care you need as quickly as possible.

Our brilliant friends at the Royal Free Charity have stood shoulder to shoulder with us throughout the pandemic and continue to be there for us when we need them. We are incredibly grateful to them and to those who have supported with donations which have helped to improve the experience of our staff and our patients.

Unfortunately, we again approach Christmas and the New Year with a great deal of uncertainty and the possibility of another Covid-19 wave in our hospitals. The support of the public, through the charity, is going to be so important as we enter the next phase of the pandemic.

In partnership with Saracens rugby club we also contributed to the monumental vaccination effort across the country – delivering 90,000 jabs at the StoneX stadium with the help of an army of volunteers.

And the single most important thing you can do to look after yourselves, your families – and to support the NHS - over the coming weeks is to get vaccinated.

We know that three doses of the Covid-19 vaccine provide good levels of immunity against the Omicron variant which is growing increasingly prevalent in our communities.

As always at this time of year, I would like to give a special mention to those staff who are working over the festive season – in particular, on the bank holidays. Thank you for all you do, you are absolute stars.

Thank you once again for your support and I hope you all have a very happy Christmas and new year.

Caroline Clarke is group chief executive of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.