Ben Quaintrell, founder and managing director of Darlington-based My Property Box, hit upon the idea following a conversation with one of his landlords, who works as a paramedic in the town.

Ben approached the coffee company, Adoro Caffe in Staindrop, near Barnard Castle, and arranged for one of their coffee carts to be positioned outside the hospital between 9am and 5pm today – with strict social distancing measures in place.

NHS staff are being treated to free beverages while members of the public have been invited to pay for their drinks, with the money being donated to the NHS charity.

Mr Quaintrell said: “I, along with the rest of the country, am in awe of anyone involved with the NHS, from cleaners and porters to nurses and consultants. What they do day in, day out, is hugely valued by the public, as is witnessed during the weekly Clap for our Carers.

“I and all the staff at My Property Box wanted to show our gratitude for their hard work in extremely difficult circumstances. I hope that the simple gesture of buying them a cuppa made them feel appreciated and helped them through their day.

“It was a privilege to serve a few brews myself and at the same time get the opportunity to thank some of the NHS staff personally for all they are doing.”

Pat Chambers, charity manager at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is a much appreciated and very thoughtful offer for our hard-working colleagues. We’re very well catered for but it was lovely for colleagues to take a short break outside and pick up a barista coffee at the same time.

“Donations to our charity help fund amazing projects that enhance the great work of the Trust, helping to ensure patients and staff receive the support they need during these challenging times. Thank you to Ben and the team for helping to make a difference.”

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