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Intensive Care Unit team aims to reach North Pole to raise funds to address loneliness

The ICU Therapy Team at Leicester Royal Infirmary has collectively set themselves the goal to travel the equivalent distance of 4,156km from Leicester to the North Pole.

Their efforts aim to raise funds for a charity working in Leicester and on a national level to address loneliness and social isolation among older people.

A team of eleven clinicians who are on the NHS frontline during the Covid-19 crisis, was keen to regain their fitness levels after the challenges of the past weeks. They decided to carry out a June Challenge and aim to collectively reach the equivalent distance from Leicester to the North Pole in 30 days. This will be achieved by walking, running or cycling a total distance of 4,156km which, for 11 team members, is 12.5 km each per day. Not content with just taking on the physical challenge, they have also set themselves a fundraising target to support Linking Lives, a charity that provides companionship and comfort to those who feel alone.

One member of the ICU team at Leicester Royal Infirmary, Philip Sykes, explains that ‘We felt that as a team addressing loneliness is very important during the COVID pandemic with older people having to shield themselves. We were also keen to give back to the community for the support they have given us over the last few months through donations, such as food and toiletries, which made a big difference to our morale.’

During Covid 19, many of us have experienced loneliness and isolation as we remained in our homes, yet for thousands of people across the country this feeling is sadly normal. Linking Lives UK works with churches to set up befriending projects to support socially isolated older people. The charity has had a local project based in Leicester Western Ward since March 2017.Volunteers visit older people on a weekly basis and there are opportunities to attend local community events and activities. Since the Covid-19 lockdown began, regular phone calls have been made to those most in need of regular contact, particularly those who are being shielded at this time. Research published this week by the Office for National Statistics shows that almost a third of people - the equivalent of 7.4m Brits - said their wellbeing had been affected by feelings of loneliness in the first month of the coronavirus lockdown.

Sarah Tavener, the coordinator of Leicester Western Ward Linking Lives – who comes from a nursing background herself – was delighted to hear about the challenge. ‘We work with some very isolated people in New Parks and to know that this amazing team at the Leicester Royal Infirmary are not only working hard within the hospital dealing with the current pandemic but also wanted to reach out and support those we engage with is incredibly heart-warming.’

Money raised during this challenge will be split between the vital ongoing work of Leicester Western Ward Linking Lives and the national work of the charity to set up new befriending projects across the UK.

Jeremy Sharpe, National Director of Linking Lives UK, adds that ‘there are currently over 40 visiting or telephone projects across the UK. Contact with socially isolated older people is particularly critical at this time, as many people will not have had direct contact with others for many weeks.’

Those wishing to contribute towards this campaign can do so by going to and search for ‘ICU Therapy Explorers’.

Linking Lives UK

Linking Lives UK works with churches and across the UK to support the establishment of befriending schemes aimed at isolated older people. Local schemes use our tried and tested approach which includes access to key documents and procedures. Other activities and social events can also be developed in local communities.


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