With more than 250 volunteers currently active in our Trust, they are a hugely significant, valued and important resource.
And Volunteers’ Week (June 1-7) gives the Trust the chance to formally acknowledge their considerable contribution, which last year alone amounted to a staggering total of more than 25,000 hours.
Volunteers have been involved with the NHS since it was formed in 1948. At QEH they range in age from age from 16 to 91 and are represented in 44 departments.
Many carry out important patient-facing tasks such as giving directions at main reception or bringing their prescriptions from the pharmacy to the ward (which has the added advantage to the Trust of facilitating timely discharges). However, there are also many “unseen” roles such as the recent introduction of driving lab samples to other hospitals across East Anglia, thereby making a financial saving for the Trust with taxis no longer used for the task.
Voluntary services manager Paul Holley-Smith said: “I’m immensely proud of all our volunteers for their commitment and time they give; they really do enhance the patient experience.
“The hospital could still run without volunteers, but the difference volunteers make is significant. Not only being there for our patients but volunteers enable the clinical staff to focus more intently on their safe care of patients.
“Staff at all levels have come to trust and rely on volunteers. I am also creating many new roles tapping into the skillsets of volunteers in order to further enhance the patient experience.”
He added: “It’s worth pointing out that being a volunteer is not a one-way street. The organisation benefits, the patients benefit but also the volunteers themselves benefit. I’ve got some volunteers who have been here since the hospital opened. They actually love to come here and give their time to help our staff and patients.”
There are many reasons and motivations why volunteers at QEH offer their time, the most common one being they want to “give back” having been a patient themselves or having had a relative or friend treated here.
For 73-year-old Sid Randell, he is happy to help out at the Trust every Tuesday afternoon – and is just pleased to be able to, having been diagnosed with bladder cancer in September 2016. He was treated successfully at QEH.
Sid said: “After I had such brilliant backing and assistance from the day I was told ‘unfortunately we’ve got some bad news for you’, I just admired the guys and girls who do the work here and this is my way of saying ‘thank you’.”
First-year university student Dean Dryden (28), who wants to become a dietitian, is getting a valuable first-hand insight into working within the NHS and former teacher Theresa Banks, who is posted in the Macmillan Care Unit, looks forward to her stint each week.
She added: “I would say I’m a gopher. I’m a tea lady, I serve lunches, I deliver blood samples to the pathology lab, I collect prescriptions for patients, I ferry patients around in wheelchairs to various departments, anything which the nurses just haven’t got time to do – I even water the garden out the back and look after the plants!”
Mrs Banks said the relationship between volunteers and staff is “excellent” with some mixing socially out of hours too.
She added: “The staff thoroughly appreciate us. They are extremely welcoming. It’s a very good, I would say, saprophytic relationship – we work off each other very well.”
For more information on volunteering opportunities at QEH, visit the “Get Involved” tab on the QEH website (www.qehkl.nhs.uk) or contact Paul Holley-Smith by phone on 01553 214687 or email Paul.Holley-Smith@qehkl.nhs.uk.
Main photo caption: In our main reception, 80-year-old Rhona Willgress gives directions to hospital visitor Eddie Stevens, Julie Douglass is poised to help with a wheelchair and Chantelle Simpson mans the switchboard.
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