A hospital team sprung a surprise celebration for their star baker supporter as they marked his 90th birthday.

Nick Cunningham has been a patient of the Surgical Care Inpatient Unit – known as SCIP – at South Tyneside District Hospital five times since 2017.

He has built up a close relationship with the team as they helped get him back on his feet, with his last stay in 2021.

To show his appreciation, he has been dropping in goodies he has baked especially for them every couple of weeks.

From corned beef pies and quiches to an array of cakes and biscuits. Each of his deliveries have brought smiles to the staff.

Nicola Peat, the ward’s manager, meets him at the front door of the hospital for a catch up and a thank you to help keep him and patients safe from infection.

She then shares them with the team, which includes physios and healthcare assistants along with doctors and nurses.

After finding out his milestone birthday was approaching, Nicola decided it was time to return the favour. She and the team set about baking and buying to put on a spread.

They invited Nick and his daughter Michelle in on his special day, with the team gathering round to sing happy birthday.

Nick, who worked for South Tyneside Council for 38 years and lives in South Shields, said: “I was left speechless and a little bit embarrassed, but it was absolutely fantastic for them to do that.

“I told them not to do anything, but I knew Nicola had the date on her desk. I knew she was planning something.

“There aren’t the words in the English language which help me say what I think of them.

“I bake for them as a thank you. They are just a brilliant, crazy gang.

“One of them said she liked walnut cake. Then someone else said they liked lemon drizzle and it went from there. I can’t think of another or better way to say thanks.”

Following his surprise gathering, Nick spent the rest of his birthday pottering in his garden, watching the Ashes and putting his feet up.

Nicola has previously expressed the unit’s gratitude for his kindness by having a specially designed ‘Surgical Inpatients Best Baker’ apron made for Nick. This was alongside a mixing bowl and mug.

She also made sure he had presents ready to open at his party on Wednesday, June 21.

She said: “We wanted to say thank you. We knew it was his big birthday coming up so we started baking things ourselves or picking up something to bring in,” she said.

“We are so touched by his kindness and grateful for what he makes for us. We hope we made it a day to remember.”