Volunteers step forward to help the NHS

They are the people manning the WRVS café where you can get a coffee at the end of a hard day in hospital, or the friendly voice on the hospital radio station. Volunteers make a massive contribution to improving the experience of patients in hospitals and other healthcare settings.

Now the role played by volunteers is to be recognised and more people encouraged to step forward under new links between Scottish health boards, including NHS Lothian, and Volunteer Development Scotland, the centre for excellence in volunteering .

NHS Lothian has around 1,700 volunteers working across its hospitals and healthcare centres.

Around 700 volunteer direct with NHS Lothian, while a further thousand people are connected with various organisations such as the WRVS, the British Red Cross, Breast Cancer Care, Macmillan, carers groups and the hospital radio broadcasting service, Red Dot Radio.

Heather Tierney-Moore, Director of Nursing, NHS Lothian, said: “All our volunteers bring something special to the healthcare service in Lothian. They do a brilliant job in providing lots of support including tea and coffee bars, manning information desks, driving people to appointments and socialising with patients. The range of tasks people can help with are tremendous, although it is important to realise that we would never ask volunteers to take the place of our highly-trained clinical staff in terms of providing patient care. Sometimes our volunteers talk about what they get from volunteering – such as a boost to their self esteem. I’m very clear that NHS Lothian – and our patients – gain tremendously from the services provided by our dedicated and selfless volunteer colleagues.“

Commenting on the vital contribution of volunteers to Scotland’s health service, George Thomson, Chief Executive of Volunteer Development Scotland, said:


“We are delighted to be working with our strategic partners in driving forward volunteering in Scotland’s health service. Our role will largely be to provide leadership and guidance to assist them in identifying the value and contribution of volunteering as well as ensuring the highest quality for all those participating in this integral element of the health service. We look forward to the implementation of the refreshed strategy and the future outcomes of this work.”
Volunteering Case Study


Mrs Robinson, 67, said:
“Things have changed massively at the Sick Kids since the time I was there with my daughter. It used to be that parents were asked to leave after a set visiting time and that was heartbreaking. Now there’s more flexibility and parents are able to be there to help relieve the stress for their children. I’m just really giving back something that I got out – giving the NHS something back.”Mrs Robinson, a former City Council and bank staff member, described her work as emotionally rewarding. Working with play specialists at the hospital’s ward 7, she plays with children who have suffered brain injuries and other neurological problems. She also provides a sympathetic ear to parents who regularly spend long hours in the hospital on a frequent basis due to the nature of their child’s difficulties.
“We develop close relationships with some parents. Having a child in this situation is quite stressful and so part of this work is just letting parents offload, just listening to them. Sometimes the parents can’t talk to their own family, and sometimes there is so much information that they have to absorb that their brain goes on overload and they just need to get it out, and that’s when I can give them the time to talk to me,” she added. “That’s when I really feel that I am doing something that is really helping people.”


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