King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is one of the largest teaching hospitals in the country, we have two incredibly busy A&E departments which see an estimated 200,000 patients a year.
A&Es can be really difficult places to be as a patient; you can feel very vulnerable and we see a real role for volunteers supporting patients through their journey. This could be in very practical ways, by offering them food and drink, to contacting family members or simply sitting and reassuring them and helping them to navigate the system.
We feel that people over 50 have the life experience necessary to enable them to meet the needs of some of the challenging situations they might come across Our staff can often be very stretched, and this can mean that they can’t always spend as much time as they would like on the ‘softer’ side of the staff-patient relationship. That’s where volunteers can really play a big part. With attendances at A&Es nationally continuing to rise, the ultimate aim is to improve patient experience .
We have volunteers across the whole hospital. Roles are diverse and include traditional roles such as befrienders on our wards and in outpatient clinics, to more specialist roles like supporting patients through day surgery and at the end of life.
Typically our volunteers give three hours a week. We do currently have volunteers in the A&E department, but not as many as we'd like, and not in the age bracket we are looking to work with moving forward.
Our project will recruit 100 people over 50 to volunteer at our Denmark Hill and Princess Royal sites. They will support some 20,000 patients and contribute over 30,000 hours over the course of the project.
Volunteers will be trained to support patients in A&E, from their first contact to discharge, including providing company and reassurance, information on waiting times, contacting family and friends, through to accompanying them for X-rays and other tests.
Some patients will also be helped to settle at home with follow-up support to try to reduce readmission.
Patients can be in the A&E for many hours at a time. Intensive volunteering is particularly important in this setting to ensure that a patient is looked after for their whole journey, to provide continuity of support and reassurance. We are confident that this model will maximise the positive impact that volunteers can have on the experience of our A&E patients and will help improve the patient's experience.
Our patients tell us that compassion, emotional support and friendliness are really important, and this new intensive volunteering programme will support both patients and staff, helping us to improve the experience of each person treated in our A&Es.
To find out more, contact [email protected]
Photo Credit: King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust