Hospital trust’s volunteers are vital to making patients’ experiences ‘best they can be’

PUBLISHED: 07:21 06 August 2018 | UPDATED: 07:24 06 August 2018

Queens Hospital volunteers Karen O'Mahony, Kieran Goodwin, Jeff Marks and Victoria Wallen.

Queens Hospital volunteers Karen O'Mahony, Kieran Goodwin, Jeff Marks and Victoria Wallen.


“Our volunteers are the workforce of tomorrow and play a major role in making patients’ experiences the best it can be”.

Queens Hospital volunteer Kieran Goodwin.Queens Hospital volunteer Kieran Goodwin.

This is the view of head of patient experience Victoria Wallen who oversees volunteers that dedicate time to helping people at the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT).

With around 520 volunteers working across the trust’s hospitals, around 200 more than 18 months ago, the importance of recruiting a little extra help has become clear.

“There is so much pressure that’s being put not only on the NHS but local government and the public sector so the need for volunteers is going to grow even more prominent,” Victoria said.

“Our staff has to be able to deliver safe, efficient and effective services and volunteers can do a lot to help make sure this happens and make the experiences of our patients better.

“While staff do what they can on the medical side of things, volunteers ensure the whole process is more humanistic.”

Jeff Marks, 71, from Hornchurch, has been volunteering at various hospitals for the past 20 years, keeping patients company, helping them eat and even shaving men’s beards when they are unable to.

Thanks to his experience, he has also become a volunteering champion, giving guidance to other volunteers who may need help.

He said: “All of the volunteers do such a great job so it’s lovely to be recognised.

“It’s very rewarding to cheer them up and when we encourage patients to eat their food when they don’t feel like it.

“I feel like what we do is really appreciated.”

Students who want to find out more about what it’s like working at a hospital can go through their college to apply for a volunteering position for at least six months.

Kieran Goodwin, 20, from Hornchurch, who was a volunteer at Queen’s Hospital has now been a full-time healthcare assistant since the beginning of the year.

“I have always been interested in doing something within healthcare and for a while wanted to be a paramedic.

“Volunteering gave me a chance to have a glimpse into what the job actually entails before applying.

“It’s given me a real insight and even though sometimes it’s hard, it’s a really worthwhile job.”

Volunteering is not just about ways you can help patients but also how they can help improve care.

Patient partners ask patients for their views on what changes can be made at the trust – these are then fed back to the hospital’s board.

After Karen O’Mahony’s mum was in and out of hospital for three years, she decided she wanted to get involved and was later appointed the position of patient partner for the elderly.

She said: “I love working with older people and whereas before it was something I was interested in it’s now become my passion.

“There’s the hospital, the patients and then there’s me in the middle to make sure that everyone is being listened to so the trust can provide the best treatment.”

BHRUT is looking for even more volunteers to join its team, including activity co-ordinators who would help to keep patients occupied during long hospital stays.

Using the new reminiscence screens which are known as Rita – reminiscence interactive therapy activity – patients can play games, watch old movies and listen to music.

These are currently at King George Hospital, Goodmayes, but £5,000 worth of funding has also been secured by the King George and Queen’s Hospitals Charity so they can be supplied at Queen’s Hospital, Romford as well.

Drivers are also needed as a new buggy system for those with mobility problems will be operating at the Goodmayes hospital.

Victoria said: “We’re all going to grow old one day or get sick at some point and we will need this service, so we want patients to have their say and be as happy as they can be while they are under our care.”


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