Daily Mail



- COM­MEN­TARY by Si­mon Stevens Health · Medicine · Society · Volunteering · Theresa May · Tom Jones · Spice Girls · Geri Halliwell · Trafford Park · Jonathan Ashworth · Royal College of Nursing

VoL­UN­TEER­ING has al­ways been at the heart of the Na­tional health Ser­vice. When the first NhS hos­pi­tal, Traf­ford Park in Greater Manch­ester, opened its doors on July 5, 1948, the Women’s Vol­un­tary Ser­vice – which had as­sisted our civil de­fence dur­ing the Sec­ond World War – im­me­di­ately signed up to help out as re­cep­tion­ists, can­teen staff and snack trol­ley ven­dors.

Seventy years on, the com­mit­ment of vol­un­teers re­mains un­changed.

As the NhS marks its birth­day this year, vol­un­teers are cen­tral to its cel­e­bra­tions, help­ing to or­gan­ise thou­sands of ‘Big 7tea’ par­ties to mark the mile­stone and raise huge sums for NhS char­i­ties.

But vol­un­teers have al­ways done more than push tea trol­leys and help in hos­pi­tal cafes – wel­come though a cuppa and a sym­pa­thetic ear can be at a stress­ful and un­cer­tain time.

At the NhS’s in­cep­tion, they also or­gan­ised blood do­na­tion ses­sions, wrote let­ters for pa­tients to loved ones and even ran ‘ Darby and Joan’ clubs where se­nior ci­ti­zens spend­ing long spells in hos­pi­tal could so­cialise.

Vol­un­teers are not sub­sti­tutes for skilled staff, but they do bring dif­fer­ent tal­ents and ex­pe­ri­ence. There is no doubt that they aid the smooth run­ning of the NhS by sup­port­ing staff to fo­cus on do­ing what they do best, al­low­ing them to de­liver some of the best health­care in the world.

That is why we are de­lighted that the Daily Mail has cho­sen, as its Christ­mas cam­paign, to sup­port the help­force char­ity.

It is tes­ti­mony to our coun­try’s gen­eros­ity of spirit and can-do at­ti­tude that in just a few short days, around 11,000 read­ers have pledged their time and en­ergy to help the NhS.

Yes­ter­day morn­ing, it was heart­warm­ing to hear lis­ten­ers bom­bard LBC Ra­dio’s ded­i­cated phone- in show to pledge their sup­port for the cam­paign.

It is a cam­paign that has united peo­ple across po­lit­i­cal and gen­er­a­tional di­vides – from Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May and Labour’s shadow health sec­re­tary Jonathan Ash­worth to singers Sir Tom Jones and Spice Girl Geri hal­li­well. ThE

NhS’s hard-work­ing staff have also given their back­ing with a whole­hearted en­dorse­ment from the Royal Col­lege of Nurs­ing, who have rightly spo­ken about the out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tions made by those who freely give their time to help staff and pa­tients.

As well as car­ry­ing out more tra­di­tional jobs, vol­un­teers can help out in a num­ber of more mod­ern ways: from driv­ing a mo­bil­ity buggy to pro­vid­ing pa­tients with ba­sic manicures and beauty treat­ments.

I felt the ben­e­fit first-hand my­self when, as a seven-yearold with a hip prob­lem, I had to spend the best part of a school term stuck on a chil­dren’s or­thopaedic ward. As well as the care I re­ceived from nurses, phys­ios and doc­tors, vol­un­teers were on hand to play, chat and help.

Just as medicine has ad­vanced, so, too, has the con­tri­bu­tion of vol­un­teers. In­deed, there are now more than 300 dif­fer­ent roles that they per­form.

Whether it’s help­ing pa­tients with their physio ex­er­cises, pick­ing up an out­pa­tient’s gro­ceries or hold­ing the hand of a dy­ing pa­tient who is with­out a loved one in their fi­nal hours, vol­un­teers make a dif­fer­ence in so many ways. Vol­un­teers also ac­com­pany paramedics, as­sist­ing those who may not need hos­pi­tal treat­ment, but could use some sup­port af­ter, for ex­am­ple, a fall.

In other hospi­tals, vol­un­teers help trans­port urgent med­i­ca­tion from one end of an enor­mous hos­pi­tal to another, free­ing up nurses to stay on busy wards. And the 1,400- strong ‘Blood Bik­ers’ group pro­vide an overnight de­liv­ery ser­vice to ferry sur­gi­cal tools, hu­man milk and other much-needed med­i­cal sup­plies – in­clud­ing blood – to hospi­tals. For NhS staff and pa­tients, the ben­e­fits of vol­un­teers are clear. BUT

vol­un­teers also hugely ben­e­fit from their own kind­ness and ded­i­ca­tion by meet­ing oth­ers and de­vel­op­ing their skills.

It can have a huge im­pact on their well-be­ing, con­fi­dence and – for younger peo­ple – job prospects.

This ini­tia­tive comes at a cru­cial time. Can­cer care has im­proved dra­mat­i­cally, but we can do even bet­ter by catch­ing the dis­ease in the early stages when it is eas­ier to treat. hun­dreds of thou­sands more peo­ple are get­ting help with men­tal health con­di­tions than just a few years ago, and the NhS will ramp up pro­vi­sion to help ad­dress the pre­vi­ously hid­den need.

Yes, to de­liver those im­prove­ments the NhS will need to re­cruit and train thou­sands more doc­tors, nurses, ther­a­pists and other staff.

But to help these new clin­i­cians fo­cus on what they do best, the NhS also needs to re­cruit and train thou­sands more vol­un­teers.

Age is no bar­rier to vol­un­teer­ing for the NhS. Just look at John Gaunt, 89, who was hon­oured as a Daily Mail health hero, for vol­un­teer­ing at an age when most of us would be putting our feet up.

As the NhS gears up to de­liver our long-term plan to im­prove our ser­vices, we are ask­ing you to heed the Daily Mail’s ap­peal.

The ex­pert car­ing staff have made our health­care sys­tem the envy of the world. But it is our foot soldiers that al­low it to func­tion smoothly ev­ery day of the year. We need peo­ple from all walks of life to chip in and sup­port staff, pa­tients and their lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. We need peo­ple like you.


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