Scottish Daily Mail

LET'S GIVE OUT HOSPITALS A HELPING HAND

Mail calls for volunteer army to transform NHS

- By Kate Pickles Health Reporter

THE DAILY Mail today launches a major campaign to recruit thousands of NHS volunteers.

We are asking our readers to find time to help patients and take pressure off frontline staff. Vital hospital roles include mentoring patients, providing friendship and even being a blood courier.

The recruitmen­t drive – the biggest in Britain since the 2012 Olympics and backed by health unions – is a partnershi­p between the Mail and the charity Helpforce.

Those signing up for the

Christmas appeal will be asked to pledge as little as a day a month, or three hours a week, for a minimum of six months.

Dozens of hospitals have signed up and are ready to welcome new volunteers.

An estimated 78,000 volunteers already contribute to the NHS, yet the growing complexiti­es of delivering health and social care for an ageing population mean the need for help is greater than ever.

Hospital consultati­ons have doubled in a decade – from 11million in 2008-09 to more than 20million last year. Only yesterday, a report identified a sharp rise in emergency admissions, while there are more than 100,000 staff vacancies.

This puts frontline staff under immense pressure, creating the need for volunteers. Prospectiv­e volunteers can register interest by filling out a simple form online. They will be matched with an NHS board or trust, with placements running from the spring, depending on availabili­ty and subject to the necessary checks.

Volunteer roles could include befriendin­g patients, collecting prescripti­ons and even running singing groups. Others may use their own experience­s of cancer or mental health to comfort others.

Holyrood Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: ‘Volunteers have long been an integral part of the fabric of Scotland’s NHS and make an enormous contributi­on to the wellbeing of patients and their families. We can’t thank them enough for their efforts.’

Ian McConnell, a volunteer services manager for NHS Highland, said: ‘The role they play helps add value to the services provided to people in both acute and social care settings. The support they give is valued.’

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: ‘From organising blood donor sessions in 1948, to helping ambulance first responders as the NHS turned 70 this summer, volunteers have always been at the heart of the NHS. Today, tens of thousands of people give up their time in more than 300 different volunteer roles, supporting our patients and freeing NHS staff to focus on highly skilled treatment and care.

‘As we finalise the plan for the long-term future of the NHS, the Daily Mail and Helpforce should be congratula­ted for encouragin­g more people to take action as volunteers.’

Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett, founder of Helpforce, said: ‘NHS staff deliver brilliant care but we know the system and our frontline teams are under intense pressure.

‘Volunteeri­ng is good for the people being supported, health and social care serv- ices, charities, the volunteers themselves and the community as whole. We want to help use the power of volunteeri­ng to bring benefits for everyone involved and ensure that the NHS is ready for the future.’

Chris Hopson of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals and ambulance trusts, said: ‘Every volunteer, no matter what they do, can provide valuable support to an NHS that the public describe as the institutio­n that makes them most proud to be British.

‘As we have seen in many trusts, dedication from volunteers works for everyone – it’s good for patients, staff and the volunteers themselves.

‘This is a welcome initiative from Helpforce and it’s particular­ly good to see it supported by the Daily Mail.’

The campaign is also backed by the Royal College of Nursing and Unison.

Rachel Power of the Patients Associatio­n said: ‘Patients and the public treasure the NHS, and want to help this national institutio­n through the significan­t challenges it’s experienci­ng. One way to do that is to get involved in volunteeri­ng.’

Comment – Page 18

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Join the hospital helpforce

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