Leeann Dempster on the personal NHS connections which make Hibs strip so special to her


LEEANN DEMPSTER, the Hibernian chief executive, is adamant the ‘Thank You NHS’ message which will adorn the club’s home jersey next season is much more than a gesture as she expressed her personal gratitude and appreciation for Scotland’s care-givers.

The Easter Road outfit have shunned a traditional sponsor in favour of the heartfelt message, which will cost £5 to have printed on the shirts. That fee will be given to local NHS charity, the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation.

While the decision was made as a club, it is evidently a poignant one for Dempster given she has close family who work in the nursing sector, while her father-in-law resides in a care home.

Hibs hope to raise a six-figure sum for the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation by the end of the 2020/21 campaign

She is utterly in awe of the services being provided and, should one sliver lining come from the devastation of the coronavirus, she believes it will be the true appreciation of those we rely on when ‘everything else fails’.

“I have a niece and a sister-in-law who are both nurses and totally committed to their professions,” said Dempster. “They go to their work every day and, even before this crisis, faced up to unimaginable challenges.

“The NHS touches all of our lives in some way, you just hope it is in as positive a context as possible.

“But there are times – not necessarily related to this virus – when you suffer great tragedies and lose people and they are always looked after by the NHS. When everything else fails, these are the services you rely upon.

“You could probably ask most people and they would have a connection to the NHS, whether it’s close family or and in-law.

“My father-in-law is in a nursing home at the moment and the work they do to keep the residents safe is absolutely unbelievable. The commitment, dedication and determination to do everything in their power to keep people safe is humbling in the biggest way.

“My own mother is in one of the shielded groups and hasn’t been out of her wee house for the last seven weeks. We all have concerns and worries.

“Without getting political in any way, I think the NHS, care sector and those who we have desperately relied on through this period will have a standing which they rightly deserve.”

‘Humbled’: Hibs chief exec Dempster

Hibs’ first home game of next season, whenever that may occur, will be a ‘Thank You NHS Day’, with hundreds of NHS staff invited to enjoy the fixture.

It is also hoped the capital club will be in a position to donate a further six-figure fee to the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation at the end of the 2020/21 campaign following a swathe of fundraising efforts.

Dempster is adamant Hibs have always ‘walked the walk’ in terms of supporting essential services in the Lothians in recent years and had no qualms about adding another arm to that relationship.

“We have been doing good in our community, working alongside NHS Lothian, for more than six years now and I see this as something that compliments that,” she continued. “We are not jumping on any bandwagons.

“We already walk the walk when it come to our support, but we just wanted to add another layer. It’s not just about the words on the shirt. This encompasses our appreciation everyone who works within a general caring environment.

“I’m certain supporters will get behind it so hopefully supporters buy the shirt and put some money into the coffers of the foundation.”