Daily Mail


- Health · Medicine · Society · Volunteering

THIRTY years ago, I be­came med­i­cal di­rec­tor of a hospice. Many of our pa­tients were el­derly, all were in the last days of their lives and a pro­por­tion had few or no vis­i­tors.

We wanted to en­sure our pa­tients spent their fi­nal days pain-free, but also com­forted. How­ever, the nurses and doc­tors would not al­ways have the time to sit and talk, so I en­cour­aged the for­ma­tion of a group of vol­un­teers to do this. It worked very well, and the vol­un­teers and pa­tients formed sig­nif­i­cant bonds that, at that time in the pa­tient’s life, meant so much.

Our vol­un­teers be­came a vi­tal cog of the func­tion of the hospice and were greatly val­ued in that char­i­ta­bly-funded or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Surely now vol­un­teers are more im­por­tant to the NHS than ever. In my early days as a hos­pi­tal doc­tor, we didn’t have ul­tra­sound, CT, MRI scan­ning and other tech­nolo­gies now con­sid­ered rou­tine. But what we had then — but don’t have now — is time. Most ju­nior doc­tors were con­stantly in the build­ing (we lived in), and we had the time to see ev­ery­one un­der our care at least once or twice daily. There were more nurses on each ward, too. Pa­tients rarely lacked at­ten­tion — clin­i­cal or so­cial.

While tech­no­log­i­cal and other ad­vances have trans­formed medicine over the past 20 years, what is miss­ing is the hu­man touch which can­not be pro­vided by over­whelmed med­i­cal teams.

And that is why I re­joice at the launch of the Mail’s Hos­pi­tal Help­force cam­paign, work­ing with the char­ity Help­force, to en­cour­age more peo­ple to pledge to vol­un­teer in the NHS.

Vol­un­teers will bring new skills, emo­tion, warmth and com­mu­ni­ca­tion — a breath of fresh air to the health ser­vice. It is an ex­cit­ing in­no­va­tion. We need this.

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