Why are we doing this?
We know that thousands of volunteers are already giving their time to volunteer in their local hospital, helping to transform the lives of patients and their carers. When they do, anecdotal evidence suggests this is both beneficial for the patient and the volunteer.
What are we doing?
We have been drawn to a pioneering group of hospitals who are using simple and smart techniques to increase the impact of their volunteers. These techniques include:
- asking nurses what jobs they wish they had time to do that volunteers could help with (usually things like holding a patient’s hand to reassure them before surgery)
- training volunteers in specialist skills (like reminiscence games for patients on dementia wards)
- developing hospital-to-home services to support patients to settle in successfully at home
We think that social action can play a significant role in improving the experience that patients and their friends and families have within hospitals, and potentially patients’ outcomes.
The Helping in Hospitals initiative is supporting six hospitals to significantly expand the reach and impact of their hospital volunteering service, and share the evidence of the impact this has had on patients and their families.
The hospitals are:
- Barts Health NHS Trust
Barts plans to double the number of volunteers. It will also recruit volunteers with experience of a specific illness or condition to support patients experiencing a similar health problem, as well as making sure there are more volunteers to help meet and greet new patients.
- Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Cambridge aims to double its number of volunteers. Many of these new volunteers will be supporting older patients, helping reduce anxiety and confusion for those with cognitive impairment and improving patient nutrition. It is hoped this can help reduce the length of patient stays.
- Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust
Derbyshire plans to mobilise new volunteers, by replicating the best hospital volunteering schemes in a community trust setting. This will include a new ‘hospital to home’ scheme, where volunteers accompany vulnerable patients home to help them settle back into normal life.
- Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Great Western Hospitals intends to increase the number of hospital volunteers by around50 per cent across Wiltshire. New volunteers will get training and mentoring and some will be deployed in helping vulnerable patients settle back in at home after a stay at hospital.
- Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Kingston plans to train up new volunteers especially to help patients with dementia, patients struggling to navigate the hospital and patients who need encouragement at meal times. It plans to almost double the number of active volunteers during the programme.
- Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Sheffield aims to increase the number of volunteers by a third. It will introduce a number of roles that it has been piloting to date, including mealtime volunteers and an ‘on-call’ role which will allow volunteers to be paged to respond to the most pressing needs on different wards.
Where did the idea come from?
In 2012, we backed King's College Hospital to accelerate the development of their pioneering volunteering programme. They designed their volunteering offer around things staff would like to do to help patients but couldn’t because they don’t have time.
This generated a list of simple, humane acts of kindness, from welcoming and guiding people around the building, to holding the hand of someone waiting for surgery – precisely the tasks volunteers now undertake. And it worked.
Since 2010, they have increased the number of volunteers from 150 to 1500, regularly out on the wards, each offering 16 hours volunteering a month.
We were inspired by this incredible achievement and the way they designed the programme so created Helping in Hospitals to incentivise others to replicate the best of this, and other pioneering models, in their hospital.