Nearly half of the British public agree regular tea breaks have helped the nation get through the pandemic in a nationwide survey commissioned by NHS Charities Together as it urges people to join in the NHS Big Tea on 5th July.

The event, which takes place on the birthday of the NHS, will be a national outpouring of thanks for NHS staff and each other while raising money for the incredible people in the NHS who have been there for the nation over the last year.

Research released by NHS Charities Together today (May 11) highlights the central place tea breaks have in UK life, their increased importance during lockdown, the benefits they bring, and the rituals people have around them. Key findings show:

  • 58% of the public have a regular tea break as part of their daily routine.

  • People in Wales are the most likely to have a regular tea break (76%).

  • 81% think having a tea break at work is important to British working life.

  • Most people recognise the benefits of taking a regular tea break – 73% believe it provides a break from work, 60% a rest from staring at screens, 56% that it breaks up the monotony of the day, 41% that it provides a chance to chat to and connect with other people and 39% that it relieves the stresses or worries a person may have.

  • Nearly half the UK public (46%) feel our tradition of tea breaks has helped us as a nation to get through the pandemic so far.

For the public, the rituals and pet peeves around our tea breaks are almost as important as having them:

  • Of those who take a regular tea break, 56% use a favourite cup or mug, 30% have something to eat with the hot drink like a biscuit or a piece of cake, 20% have the break at the same time every day, 21% use the same spoon throughout the day, 16% put the milk in first, and 16% sit in a specific seat or chair.
  • 47% think it is unacceptable to leave the teabag in when drinking, many are repulsed by the idea of making hot drinks in the microwave with 46% agreeing that this is unacceptable, 43% are against using the same teabag twice, 33% do not like the idea of putting the milk in first, and 29% think even re-heating hot drinks in the microwave is a no-no.

The biggest tea break

NHS Charities Together has published the research to launch the NHS Big Tea. Taking place on the NHS’s birthday on 5th July, the charity is urging the public to join the nation’s biggest tea break and be part of a national outpouring of thanks while raising money for the incredible people in the NHS who have been there for the nation over the last year. Everyone can take part by raising a mug or holding their own virtual or physical tea party (following the latest social distancing guidance) at 3pm on that day or at any time that suits them on or around that date.

Funds raised will increase the practical and emotional support available to NHS staff, patients and volunteers are they continue to battle the Covid crisis and start down the long road to recovery.   

Morrisons is supporting the NHS Big Tea this year and will be urging its customers and staff to take part.

Speaking about the research and the NHS Big Tea, Ellie Orton, CEO of NHS Charities Together said:

“These results really chime with me. I was brought up with a regular ‘cuppa-tea time’ as a family when I was young and tea breaks have helped me through all the difficulties and challenges of the past year and I know that is the same for so many other people as well.

“After so many months of isolation for many, the NHS Big Tea is a chance for everyone to join up with friends, family and neighbours, for communities to come together and thank NHS staff and each other for everything they have done over the past year, all while having a great time and raising vital funds to support NHS staff, volunteers and patients.

“However, you take your tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, we would love you to join in the NHS Big Tea this year and be part of an outpouring of thanks for everything the NHS has done for us. I draw the line at leaving the bag in though.”

Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England said:

I am incredibly proud of our health and care staff for their extraordinary work, continuing to treat tens of thousands of patients alongside delivering the biggest and most successful vaccination programme in NHS history, in a year like no other.

“The NHS Big Tea is a great reminder that it is important to look after ourselves and I want to thank NHS Charities Together for helping everyone to take a moment to reflect.”

Darren Barthorpe, a Physiotherapist and Occupational Therapist Technician at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, who was deployed onto their Covid ward during the first and second wave, is backing the campaign:

“The chance to take a break, enjoy a cuppa and chat nonsense with a colleague for a few minutes was a real life-saver during the dark times when Covid was at its height. I sometimes think the NHS runs on tea and coffee. I urge anyone who loves the NHS to hold a Big Tea event as your support means so much for me and my colleagues. The public has been incredibly generous so far and the funds they have raised have made a real difference for those of us working on the frontline but we still need more support.”

The NHS Big Tea is being backed by TV personality and A&E doctor Dr Alex George:

“It’s been a long and hard year for everyone. Throughout the pandemic, NHS staff have gone above and beyond, and I’ve seen it myself on the frontline. The NHS Big Tea is a chance for us all to get together and provide even more support to the NHS as it tries to recover from the impact of Covid. It’s great to be a supporter of the Big Tea event, and it will be amazing to see everyone unite again to give thanks to those who have given so much.”

“We need to remain aware of what staff have been through and not let the support for them slip. It’s quite easy to think that staff should be ‘used to it’, but they still need that support more than ever.”

David Potts, Morrisons Chief Executive, said: 

“As we move forward with hope for a brighter future, we’re incredibly proud to continue our support for all those in the NHS – who have shown care and resilience in the toughest of times.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve done our best to be there for the NHS. From early shopping hours to ensure doctors and nurses had the food they needed, to discounts on groceries to show our thanks.  And now we’re delighted to be supporting the NHS Big Tea. We’re fully behind this important day and look forward to a cup of tea and a moment of reflection on the 5th July.”  

NHS Charities Together has so far allocated £125 million in a range of projects supporting staff, patients and volunteers. These include counselling services for NHS staff, helplines and intensive psychological support for post-traumatic stress disorder, through its 240 NHS member charities covering the entire UK. Funding has also supported staff with practical needs like food, drink and a place to rest, enabling staff to continue with their vital life-saving work.

Making a difference

The evidence shows these projects are already making a huge difference for frontline staff, with over three in ten NHS staff surveyed saying they most value the counselling support and support with practical needs, like food and drink, that have been provided by NHS charities.