The Scalpel's Blog

26.04.18

NHS leaders have a duty to unlock the potential of volunteers

Dr Stephen Dunn, chief executive of West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, discusses the vital role volunteers have played in West Suffolk and how they are an untapped recourse of potential for the NHS.

Volunteers play a valuable role in our communities, so it is a huge missed opportunity that they remain a ‘nice to have’ option in so many hospitals. This problem is being tackled by HelpForce, an organisation working with forward-thinking NHS leaders to unlock the benefits they bring for patients, health services, the volunteers and our communities.

To achieve this goal, NHS leaders must make volunteering a priority. While more than 78,000 people currently volunteer with acute NHS Trusts, they are rarely integrated into services. This is a missed opportunity.

At West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, we have made it a priority to integrate our volunteers with our staff, bringing them into the heart of our hospitals. We have a long tradition of helping our volunteers to underpin the great work that we do. More than 400 volunteers, from young students to retired healthcare workers, support our patients and staff and they are hugely appreciated and regularly celebrated by us all.

In 2016, our team of volunteers gave a record-breaking 47,358 hours of time to the Trust, with 49 long service awards distributed to volunteers who, between them, had given 530 years of service, including one with 35 years’ service.

Our strong volunteering heritage means we are a natural fit to be one of the 13 NHS trusts working with HelpForce. Alongside other trusts in HelpForce’s learning network, we are sharing knowledge to create a best practice model for volunteering in the NHS, which can be used more widely to develop and test new volunteer interventions.

For any NHS leaders doubting the benefits of volunteering, I believe the volunteers at West Suffolk recently helped us improve our CQC rating from ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’. The CQC’s report specifically cited the contribution of volunteers, including their support with end of life care, which involves trained volunteers supporting with palliative care and acting as ward companions for both patients and their families.

One of our proudest achievements is the success of our bleep volunteers. They carry pagers so they can be contacted by staff from across the hospital to help them in real time, providing efficient assistance where it’s needed most.

This might include by helping to collect medicines for patients who require extra support when discharged. This also helps us discharge people to reduce delay, ensuring people can get home when they are ready and allowing the next patients who needs our care into our hospital.

Not only is volunteering good for our patients and staff, but it also improves the self-esteem, wellbeing and social connections of the volunteers themselves. Many of our volunteers are retired and choose to volunteer as a way of filling their spare time.

For example, our bleep volunteers maintain social interaction and stay fit and active by helping around the hospital. I experienced just how much ground these volunteers cover by shadowing them, alongside our executive director of workforce and communications, who achieved a massive 16,000 steps in just one shift!

NHS England has already made volunteering a key part of its 70th anniversary celebrations and I’d urge all NHS leaders to recognise the value and potential of volunteers. I want West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust to significantly increase its volunteer cohort and to develop our volunteering roles to reach out into the community.

Well-managed and properly trained volunteers can help improve patient experiences and support staff, as well as contribute to a more connected community. With the new HelpForce model, the potential to maximise volunteering in the NHS is huge. It’s up to all of us to make this happen.

 

Enjoying NHE? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

national health executive tv

more videos >

latest healthcare news

Struggling Cornwall trust appoints permanent chief executive to lead it out of special measures

18/01/2019Struggling Cornwall trust appoints permanent chief executive to lead it out of special measures

The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) has announced that Kate Shields, the current interim chief executive, has been appointed to lead the tr... more >
Bradford hospitals trust fined by CQC after breaching its duty of candour

18/01/2019Bradford hospitals trust fined by CQC after breaching its duty of candour

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS FT (BTH) has been fined by the CQC after failing to apologise to a family in time after a safety incident, breaki... more >
Substantial deficits across NHS ‘do not paint a picture of sustainability’ and threaten long-term plan, warns spending watchdog

18/01/2019Substantial deficits across NHS ‘do not paint a picture of sustainability’ and threaten long-term plan, warns spending watchdog

The NHS is not financially sustainable and substantial deficits at NHS bodies, year-on-year increases in waiting lists and waiting times, and sta... more >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital e... read more >

last word

Hard to be optimistic

Hard to be optimistic

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, warns that we must be realistic about the very real effects of continued underfunding across the health service. It’s now beyond doubt or dispute, other than in government, that the NHS is inadequately funded. Even the secretary of state has argued that it will need more mon... more > more last word articles >

the scalpel's daily blog

Gentleness: an underrated quality in effective leadership

14/01/2019Gentleness: an underrated quality in effective leadership

Dean Royles, strategic workforce advisor at Skills for Health and co-author of ‘An Introduction to Human Resource Management,’ returns to write for NHE for his blog series on effective leadership. “It is not in your top three, Dean…” The difficulty in asking for feedback is that sometimes, occasionally,... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >
332 304x150 NHE Callout banner.

comment

Sneak a peek into the world of risk

19/12/2018Sneak a peek into the world of risk

The Institute of Risk Management (IRM) asked its members what working in risk is really like and what hints and tips they’d share with peop... more >
The NHS Assembly: A moment to reset

19/12/2018The NHS Assembly: A moment to reset

The development of the NHS long-term plan offers a reset moment: a chance to develop a credible, sector-owned blueprint designed to improve care ... more >
NHS Supply Chain: Driving the way forward

19/12/2018NHS Supply Chain: Driving the way forward

Jin Sahota spent two years at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) establishing the future operating model for the new NHS Supply Chai... more >
Leading the way: The Translational Research Collaboration for Mental Health

19/12/2018Leading the way: The Translational Research Collaboration for Mental Health

Professor John Geddes, director of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre, introduces the new... more >

health service focus

View all News

interviews

How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

24/10/2018How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

A dedicated national social care service could be a potential solution to surging demand burdening acute health providers over the winter months,... more >
RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

24/10/2018RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

The president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has told NHE that the college’s new headquarters based in Liverpool will become a hu... more >
Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

24/01/2018Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

The NHS plays a part in the country’s wellness – but it’s far from being all that matters. Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Pu... more >
Cutting through the fake news

22/11/2017Cutting through the fake news

In an era of so-called ‘fake news’ growing alongside a renewed focus on reducing stigma around mental health, Paul Farmer, chief exec... more >