In late 2018 The Daily Mail highlighted the Helpforce campaign and ‘the healing power of helping hands’ that referred to the value of volunteers supporting NHS services.

In Somerset the NHS Trust has benefitted from that power for many years, especially within their twelve community hospitals.  Across these hospitals there are currently 155 registered and active volunteers and a further 37 in the process of registration and soon to be taking up an active role.  These figures exclude League of Friends volunteers.

Staff at these community hospitals who are often time restricted have reaped the rewards of the 400+ hours of time given by these volunteers per month.

We at CSW Volunteers work in partnership with the staff and volunteers at the community hospitals.  We work with the hospitals to identify the type of volunteer required to match the roles and tasks on offer. Sometimes this means creating a new role to match the skills offered by a particular volunteer.

CSW’s Volunteer Engagement Adviser Sheila Burridge who leads our work with the community hospitals has dealt with 11 new enquiries to date during January 2019.  Sheila says ‘I always ask potential volunteers what has drawn them to this type of volunteering’.

Although some have been a patient or a visitor to their local hospital and want to give something back, some use their volunteering as a means to getting back into employment. And some find it helpful as they may be choosing a career in the health or social care field.

However they almost always add that their desire to support something useful in their community is a fundamental reason for volunteering.

Through the support of these volunteers at the community hospitals the patients benefit from individual and personalised attention.  This can take the form of hand massage, handing out of refreshments, fetching items from the hospital shop and accompanying them to appointments within the hospital e.g. X-ray.

The common theme throughout all this is undoubtedly conversation and laughter.

Volunteers are integral to the welcoming environment offered by the hospital and are often found meeting and greeting visitors, assisting on reception and offering support on the wards by answering the telephone.

One not quite so glamorous but necessary role that the volunteers undertake is bed making. However, Chris at Williton Hospital has turned this into the ideal opportunity to give individual attention to patients and an excuse for a good chat and sometimes accompanied by a singalong.

Chris has also recently taken on the lead as volunteer team co-ordinator at Williton Community Hospital, a role her predecessor Shirley had carried out for 30 years.

Chris joined us when CSW Volunteers team, Sue Hunter and Sheila Burridge took part in BBC Radio Somerset’s Connected programme with Charlie Taylor on 9th January.  The show was dedicated to highlighting the value and benefits for volunteers, patients and staff in these hospitals who epitomise the healing power of the helping hand in Somerset.