19,000 sign up for our cam­paign... as ma­jor study shows vol­un­teer­ing can ward off de­men­tia

Scottish Daily Mail - - Countdown To Brexit D-day - By Kate Pick­les Health Re­porter

Keep­ing ac­tive in re­tire­ment was found to re­duce mem­ory prob­lems and boost think­ing skills by 6 per cent. VOL­UN­TEER­ING for only two hours a week can help to ward off de­men­tia, a ma­jor study shows.

Ex­perts say it adds to grow­ing ev­i­dence that stim­u­lat­ing ac­tiv­i­ties – such as help­ing on hospi­tal wards or read­ing to pa­tients – can con­trib­ute to main­tain­ing brain­power into old age.

So far, more than 19,000 peo­ple have signed up to the Daily Mail’s cam­paign to boost vol­un­teer num­bers in the NHS.

Scot­land’s first fe­male bishop, the Rt Rev Anne Dyer, un­der­went treat­ment for cancer and called NHS vol­un­teers mod­ern-day ‘Good Sa­mar­i­tans’.

The Epis­co­palian Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney said: ‘Thus far the re­sponse from read­ers has been fan­tas­tic, with al­most 20,000 peo­ple across Bri­tain pledg­ing well over a mil­lion hours of their time over the next six months. But, as a church­woman who has ex­pe­ri­enced first-hand the gen­eros­ity of NHS vol­un­teers, it seems to me I should do all I can to keep this tidal wave of kind­ness grow­ing.’

Re­fer­ring to the Good Sa­mar­i­tan from the Bi­ble, she added: ‘He took time out from his daily busi­ness to of­fer his com­pas­sion.’

Mrs Dy­ers’s com­ments echo those of Justin Welby, who to­day gives his sup­port to the cam­paign, com­mend­ing those who have pledged their time and en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to fol­low suit.

The Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury says vol­un­teers are in a priv­i­leged po­si­tion and can give the pre­cious time busy doc­tors and nurses do not have.

‘By join­ing the Hospi­tal Help­force – pledg­ing as lit­tle as three hours a week, or one day a month of your time – you could have a pro­found im­pact on the lives of pa­tients, whether giv­ing prac­ti­cal help like pick­ing up pre­scrip­tions, of­fer­ing a shoul­der to cry on, talk­ing to pa­tients who may be el­derly or con­fused, or staffing helpdesks to make the hos­pi­tals as ef­fi­cient as pos­si­ble,’ he writes.

The Christ­mas cam­paign with the char­ity Help­force aims to fill im­por­tant roles such as pro­vid­ing pa­tients with com­pan­ion­ship, de­liv­er­ing pre­scrip­tions and even run­ning singing groups.

Last week a ma­jor re­port by re­spected health think tank The King’s Fund found vol­un­tary help re­duces pres­sures on NHS staff. Re­search by UK char­ity the Royal Vol­un­tary Ser­vice has also shown the ben­e­fits to those on the re­ceiv­ing end.

Now re­searchers say there is com­pelling ev­i­dence that this can ben­e­fit vol­un­teers as well as pa­tients and staff.

The study, pub­lished in The Jour­nal of the Eco­nomics of Age­ing, fol­lowed 64,000 adults in the US, who were aged 60 and over, be­tween 1998 and 2010. It found those who com­pleted vol­un­teer work for 100 hours a year – only two hours a week – scored 6 per cent higher in cog­ni­tive test­ing than non-vol­un­teers.

MORE than 19,000 self­less Daily Mail read­ers have re­sponded to our call for hospi­tal vol­un­teers. Here, three re­veal why they want to give up their free time to help:


So­phie Piper, 28, a paramedic for West Mid­lands Am­bu­lance Ser­vice, said: ‘I might be a strange can­di­date to vol­un­teer when I al­ready work long hours for the NHS, but as I work two days and two nights a week I ef­fec­tively have four days off a week, too, when I could help. My part­ner told me I might as well do over­time, but I wanted to make a dif­fer­ent sort of im­pact.’

Miss Piper, who lives in Swadlin­cote, Der­byshire with her fi­ancé, John, 33, an HGV driver, added: ‘My mother is un­der­go­ing chemo­ther­apy for stage-four breast cancer, so I know what an ex­tra pair of hands could achieve. She of­ten has to wait for ages for her drugs. If a vol­un­teer could take pres­sure off nurses things like that could be done more quickly.

‘As a paramedic, I also see first-hand peo­ple’s im­pres­sion of the ser­vice. An el­derly woman I at­tended re­cently was hav­ing a heart at­tack, yet was adamant she didn’t want to go to hospi­tal be­cause she had had such a bad ex­pe­ri­ence the last time. We man­aged to per­suade her, but it wasn’t easy.

‘On the whole, the NHS is bril­liant. Of course it’s over­stretched and there’s too much de­mand on ev­ery as­pect, but it’s also still free. Peo­ple of­ten for­get that.

‘This is an ex­cel­lent cam­paign and a great op­por­tu­nity for young peo­ple to gain ex­pe­ri­ence if they want to go into hos­pi­tals or care work. It helps ev­ery­one.

‘Hope­fully I’ll be good at speak­ing to the el­derly or cheer­ing up chil­dren af­ter their par­ents have gone home – any­thing to give peo­ple a break.’


Howard Davies, 75, a lock­smith who lives in High Wy­combe, Buck­ing­hamshire, said: ‘Three months ago I suf­fered a heart at­tack and the NHS were fan­tas­tic.

‘I was at home on my own at the time. It felt like some­body was push­ing the cen­tre of my chest and I sud­denly felt quite cold. I recog­nised the symp­toms and di­alled 999 and the am­bu­lance came quickly and I was taken to Wex­ham Park Hospi­tal where four stents were in­serted into my heart whilst I was awake.

‘Half the ar­ter­ies in my heart were blocked. I was very lucky.’

The fa­ther of two, who has one grand­child and one great-grand­child, added: ‘I’m still hav­ing treat­ment – car­diac re­hab to try to make me a bit fit­ter than I was be­fore – but I felt per­fectly fit and healthy both be­fore and af­ter and it re­mains the only time I have ever re­ally had to use the NHS for some­thing se­ri­ous.

‘It made me think that at my time of life, I work but am self-em­ployed, I can af­ford to of­fer some of my time, to give some­thing back.

‘The NHS is a won­der­ful, won­der­ful in­sti­tu­tion and I have put my money in all my life.

‘I think it’s a must-keep and there are peo­ple around who could give time.

‘My skills are prob­a­bly peo­ple­fac­ing, but I’m in­ter­est­ing in help­ing any­one in any way I can.’


Norma White­ford, a re­tired phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tive, lives with her hus­band Jim in Ayr. She has two chil­dren and two grand­chil­dren.

She said: ‘I worked in phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sales for many years and while I was not em­ployed by the NHS it did bring me into di­rect con­tact with them for most of my work­ing life when in hos­pi­tals, surg­eries and out in the com­mu­ni­ties with nurses.

‘I have al­ways been struck by the ded­i­ca­tion, the hard work and the giv­ing up of time and I felt that now I am re­tired I would like to give some­thing back.

‘My own per­sonal in­volve­ment with the NHS has al­ways been very pos­i­tive and I’d like ev­ery­one to ex­pe­ri­ence that.

‘I have wit­nessed how stretched NHS staff are and I think it has come to a time that we all have to pull to­gether be­cause we are per­haps fac­ing a staffing cri­sis.

‘I can of­fer em­pa­thy and time and hope­fully I’ll be able to help those go­ing through a dif­fi­cult time or be there for those peo­ple that don’t have any­one else. If they do want me to be more proac­tive I do have my As­so­ci­a­tion of the British Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal In­dus­try qual­i­fi­ca­tion from the ca­reer that I’ve had.’


Ju­dith Ayres, 75, a re­tired re­cep­tion­ist of Torquay, Devon, with two daugh­ters and three grand­daugh­ters, said: ‘Since my hus­band John died in Fe­bru­ary aged 76 I’ve felt very, very lonely. The only way to keep my­self go­ing is to stay busy, and vol­un­teer­ing is an ex­cel­lent way of do­ing that. I also want to give some­thing back to the NHS.

‘I’ve been try­ing to cope with John’s death, but it came out of the blue. He wasn’t ill – it was a sud­den prob­lem with his heart. I called the paramedics and an am­bu­lance ar­rived within min­utes.

‘They were such lovely peo­ple and al­though they weren’t able to save him they re­ally looked af­ter me. It was their kind­ness that was most strik­ing. To be able to help them in any ca­pac­ity would be won­der­ful and make me feel as though I’m be­ing use­ful.

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