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Caring, empathic, responsive, supportive, willing, inspiring, thoughtful and resilient

17th November 2020

Volunteering team Kingston Hospital

Submitted by Laura Shalev Greene, Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

On 2nd April, our new strategy was due to be delivered at Board level. Instead, this was cancelled and on 23rd March, all volunteering was stepped down. However, the team was quick witted and immediately established a Buddy support scheme for volunteers as well as a Staff Health & Wellbeing volunteer support role. Working in close alliance, Peer Support Volunteers, fearless volunteers who stepped up, and staff, worked hard to get tea, coffee, fruit, vegetables, hard to get items such as hand soap and sanitizer and innumerable deliveries from the local community distributed to staff who were working without breaks or work/life balance on our wards. Our team went shopping for our elderly volunteers in their own time. Amazing!

Within two weeks, the team had collaborated to establish our first suite of virtual volunteering roles. The Discharge Support Service, eight volunteers moved to a telephone base, calling patients post-discharge with a refreshed service focusing on sign-posting and social prescribing to increase connectivity with the local community and reduce dependency on statutory hospital care. Driven by this success, the Head of Volunteering designed a proposal for 10 additional virtual volunteering roles which recognised the invaluable contribution of volunteers in new and established arenas: Patient Literature Volunteers, Virtual Dementia Visitors, Peer Support Volunteers and boosting the platform of social media by inviting volunteers en-masse to become Hospital Members and retweet, reshare essential Covid-19 messaging on visiting, infection control and appointments to increase the reach of hospital information into our local community on and offline.

Within eight weeks of the 'shut down' of face-to-face volunteering at Kingston Hospital, five new or adapted volunteering roles were established and helping patients. Within twelve weeks, the Virtual Volunteering Proposal and updated Volunteering Strategy had been taken to the Recovery Group. With a ladder of routes to get involved, from simple re-tweet to a detailed holistic needs assessment for a recently discharged patient, the volunteering response to Covid-19 continues to be inclusive and inspiring; hallmarks of the Kingston Hospital Volunteering experience and the commitment of the KHFT Volunteering Team.

The Head of Volunteering in partnership with the Volunteering Team have:

- Developed an approved Virtual Volunteering paper Recovery Plan.

- Updated the Volunteering Strategy to accommodate the surge of online and virtual volunteering and micro-volunteering opportunities

However it was imperative to us to enable volunteers once again to be active, albeit virtually, supporting patients. We feel that three examples really speak to the impact that volunteers can have to bridge gaps that affect the quality of someone’s care in their transition between hospital and home during Covid-19.

A referral that came via Hardy Ward for discharge support service. Patient had been admitted after collapse at home, after various assessments the patient was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour.

Patient was discharged with no Package Of Care but after arriving home realised that she was unable to manage with general house maintenance, food shopping and was having trouble getting off and on the toilet seat. Volunteers referred the patient urgently to Adult Social Care and a home assessment and gave the numbers of shopping stores that could deliver to her free of charge. The patient has since been allocated a carer, one day a week to help with cleaning and house maintenance, has her shopping delivered and has had her toilet seat raised so that it is easier to access. She has been very thankful for all the support she has received and feels like she can manage better at home despite having to have radiotherapy treatment.

Second, a referral that came from Canbury Ward and had been called for a number of months during Covid-19. Patient was admitted due to a fall at home and when called was still not managing very well at home with her balance. The patient had had quite a negative experience with the NHS and felt like no one wanted to help her. Discharge Support volunteers talked through information about the Kingston Community Falls Service and what they could offer her and she was extremely happy to be referred. She felt that no one had ever really taken the time to listen to what she wanted and that prior to her fall she was independently mobile. She is hopeful that this intervention will really improve her quality of life.

Finally, when visiting ceased at Kingston Hospital, as a team, we felt strongly that we could use our additional team capacity to set up a simple yet innovative way for family members to keep in touch with loved ones in hospital. Learning from colleagues within the Helpforce Learning Network, we were able to set up a Message to a Loved One service. It’s a simple concept which has delivered over 400 printed messages since May to patients on wards across Kingston Hospital, enclosed in greetings cards designed by local artists. One relative said “This messaging system is a great idea, so thank you so much for going the extra mile to help us get in touch with each other safely.”

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