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Volunteers should be part of the solutions to help the NHS cope with this challenging winter. Here is why.

27th January 2021

001 Moorfields Tracy Luckett 2015 PREFERRED

This blog was written by Tracy Luckett, director of nursing and allied health professions at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

UNDENIABLY, the NHS is facing the toughest winter in its history. As we are now in the middle of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with winter pressures, we all need to think creatively about how to provide the best possible care to patients at such a challenging time.

At Moorfield Eye Hospitals NHS Trust, we are fortunate to have a group of selfless and compassionate volunteers who are willing to support us whenever we need them. And as part of our long-term recovery plan, we believe the volunteers have a huge part in this plan with providing extra support to patients and staff during this challenging time.

More importantly, we look forward to resuming the ‘Theatre support volunteer’ project, an intervention that aims to reduce anxiety and stress for patients who undergo surgery by allowing volunteers to be with patients in theatre, holding their hand or talking to them to keep them calm and relaxed.

We started this project nearly two years ago with support from Helpforce, a charity which aims to accelerate growth and impact of volunteering in health and care. The results from this project exceeded our expectations, with 95 per cent of patients agreeing or strongly agreeing that the volunteers helped them to feel less anxious and 67 per cent of patients who received support from volunteers being ‘extremely likely’ to recommend this service to friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment. Whereas only 31 per cent of patients not supported by a volunteer would do the same.

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Thanks to this collaboration with Helpforce, we were able to realise our vision for our volunteering strategy and we learned so much from their expertise to help us fully embed this intervention into our organisation.

At the time this blog was written, we have recently been able to welcome some of our volunteers back, thanks to the stringent infection control measures already implemented across the Trust, such as personal protective equipment and processes to ensure safe distancing; all volunteers have also completed an individual risk assessment . Since returning, they have provided patient facing services such as meet and greet and wayfinding support. More recently, they have been welcomed back to the wards, providing support to our day care patients.

In the near future, we are hoping to explore opportunities for our volunteers to expand their current roles, so that they can add extra value to the experience of patients and staff.

As we continue to provide healthcare during this pandemic, we remain hopeful that we can continue to recruit more volunteers so we can further enhance patient experience. We know that clinical areas will always be busy and there is so much that volunteering staff can provide to support our staff.

Volunteers bring different perspectives and their help can be complimentary of the care package that we give to patients. I urge colleagues to consider integrating volunteering in their workforce as they are integral to improve the experience of staff, patients, and visitors.

To read more about the “Theatre Support Volunteer” project and learn how to adopt and adapt this intervention at your Trust, please visit this link.