GLORIOUS RESPONSE WILL HELP CHANGE LIVES
BY THE HEAD OF OUR NHS
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.