Connected Santa at Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping on your nose… and Connected Santa on a big video screen.

Network specialists, Cisco, made a few Christmas dreams come true at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, London, this week when staff collaborated with the hospital to bring Santa Claus to the playroom.

For children too ill to visit Santa in his usual haunts, the scheme provided a direct line to Lapland.

Soft toys, Dr Who books and dolls were top choices in the virtual grotto as children spoke to Santa via a videoconference link. A Cisco elf used instant messaging to ensure Santa knew the children’s names before they pressed the button to start their personal sessions with the guy in charge of the wishlist.

Mrs Claus was on hand at the hospital to hand over the presents bought for the children by Cisco’s UK employees – and a good time was had by all. There were enough gifts for all the patients and brothers and sisters who joined in, with some left over for distribution on Christmas Day to children who will not be able to go home.

Terry Espiner, Cisco UK’s healthcare sector manager, said: “Feedback is that the children seem to be very interested and find this less threatening than other Santas.”

He explained: “Connected Santa was initiated in the States and brought to Europe last year at a hospital in Germany. We’ve been organising this for the past month, getting the play workers onside and ready.”

Cisco moved the videoconferencing equipment into the playroom specially for the day and everything worked well. “I’m delighted to say they just press the button and Santa appears,” Espiner told E-Health Insider.

(He also said the link went to Cisco’s UK headquarters in Bedfont Lakes, Middlesex, rather than Lapland, though whether you believe this or not will depend on your age.)