NHS @ 75

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Stories


Shenna Cummins

When did you start volunteering? 

Over 20 years ago now, I wasn’t working.

My family suggested I  might consider getting more involved in community activities. I started two things which carry on to this day: the first was dancing, and the second was volunteering for the League of Friends at St Mary’s, Paddington.

Why did you choose to volunteer?
 
Volunteering was all about getting involved with people who live around me and do something useful.

Some friendships made in those first few months continue to this day.

Describe what you do in 100 words?

I get involved in everything my health allows me to. Before Covid, I really enjoyed volunteering in the Friends Shop, but this was not re-opened after the pandemic.

Currently, I help with

  • Book sales
  • The Christmas Bazaar
  • Sales of Christmas cards
  • The Flag day at Paddington station

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The Friends are far more than a group of volunteers, and their help extends beyond simply supporting the hospital, to caring for each other: they aren’t just Friends of the hospital, we are friends of each other.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about volunteering in health and care? 

Think of something you might like to do, and give it a try, twice 

How would you describe the NHS in one word? 
 
There for me when I have needed it.

 


Ann Wickham

President of the Guild of St. Bartholomew, St. Bartholomew’s Hosptial - London

When did you start volunteering?

1966

Why did you choose to volunteer?

Because it was in a hospital I knew and I could only do volunteering work because I had three young children, you know time was difficult. But I could fit in volunteering.

Describe what you do in 100 words

As a volunteer, I worked for St. Bartholomew’s London in an organisation called the Guild and my first jobs were reading to children in the children’s ward. Two volunteers were doing this and we used to organize getting new books to the children’s library so we could read to them and they could read to themselves.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Giving time to people who need it. I think that’s the most rewarding thing and just to be with people who just need somebody to talk to sometimes.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about volunteering in health and care?

Depending on their individual skills or talents, I’d advise them to apply to their nearest hospital and see what sort of volunteers they need, whether it’s pushing a trolley or making coffee or doing shopping for the patients or whatever, so first of all find a hospital which needs volunteers because not every hospital does. Usually if you want to be a volunteer in hospital you have to be checked by the police and by the hospital before you can even start, and that can take time.

How would you describe the NHS in one word?

The concept of the NHS is one of the most wonderful achievements of any nation, but the problem is keeping it up with the times with financial constraints. In the NHS more things, medical treatments, machinery, have been invested, but the NHS cannot run without money, and it needs a lot more investment.


Beatrice Dyer

When did you start volunteering?

I started volunteering 18 years ago, so that was in 2005.
 
Why did you choose to volunteer?

I had breast cancer and shouldn’t have been retiring but as I was quite poorly, began to think of early retirement. Whilst having treatment at the hospital, having had such lovely service, and just getting a cup of tea at that time from the volunteers of Friends meant such a lot. Then I was approached by the hospital, who were looking for a Chairman for the Friends of the Hospital. So, I went to the first Friends meeting and was elected as Chairman. I wanted to be able to give something back, and my background as Assistant Head at a school meant I had the people skills required.
 
Describe what you do in 100 words?

I’m not particularly hands on, but I facilitate a lot of what happens in the hospital with volunteers. For example, at the moment we are setting up a mobile shop trolley. Before covid there was a library which went around twice a week, which we have decided to turn into a mobile shop. This is being really appreciated but we just need more volunteers. I also try to promote the work that Friends do, give talks to various organisations, and fundraise. We also always try to thank our volunteers, without whom none of this would be possible. I often say, “we put the cream on the bread and jam”. The bread and jam is provided by the NHS and we provide that extra personal touch. One example of an initiative we have set up over 5 years ago is giving a teddy bear to children before they have an MRI scan. These teddies only cost about £5, but considerably save antitheists time. It calms the children, and they consider the teddy as their hospital bear which needs to be looked after. These personal touches matter.
 
What do you enjoy most about your role?

I think its meeting and building relationships with people. Knowing that we make a difference!
 
What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about volunteering in health and care?

Just do it! You will get far more out of it than you could have imagined. It is very humbling and some of the letters we get back show that we are making a difference and what we do is greatly appreciated.
 
How would you describe the NHS in one word?

Amazing!


Pamela Morton OBE

Friends of York Hospital

When did you start volunteering? 
 
I first started to volunteer in 1939. I don’t think I understood it as volunteering then, it was more about helping to save the world we lived in, and enjoyed! The war had certainly given everyone a new sense of responsibility and there was an energy that we all needed to contribute to our community. At a young age my main interests were around wildlife. Everyone was involved in something, I can remember for example going with my father to welcome children off the Kindertransport trains.

I began volunteering for the League of Friends as they were then, at York Hospital while I was still a headteacher. It was in the mid 1980’s

Why did you choose to volunteer? 
 
Volunteering was really all about me helping my community: it was the difference I could and wanted to make. Over the years, I have had a number of significant health issues, and the NHS have always been there for me right from having TB in my late teens.

Volunteering at the local hospital was logical as a way of “giving back”. It was also something a lot of people I knew were involved in. It had a reputation for being varied and interesting.

Describe what you do in 100 words? 
 
I want to focus on 4 things:

  1. I volunteered in an embryonic service in the cancer unit, making tea and coffee for anxious people waiting for appointments and treatments.
  2. 30 years ago I began running a table sale in the hospital reception once a month to raise money. For ten years we raised over £1000 per year.
  3. I volunteered in the Friends office, sorting the rotas, and carrying out the volunteer interviews and other on-boarding tasks.
  4. I was on the Board, and Chair of Attend between 2006 and 2010. It supports the Friends Groups throughout the NHS. There are currently about 425, and over 20,000 active volunteers.

What do you enjoy most about your role? 
 
I am what might be stereotyped as a people person. I love meeting people, hearing their stories and making connections.  The “people”, could be patients, their families, hospital staff, volunteers or just people in the wider community when fundraising. People are always interesting.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about volunteering in health and care? 
 
Firstly you can’t start too soon. We can all create time to do something to help.

Then whatever you do, throw yourself into it and don’t give up. Don’t expect it always to be easy. The more you put in, the more you will get out

How would you describe the NHS in one word? 
 
The foundations of a social revolution.
 


June Whittaker

When did you start volunteering?

1969

Why did you choose to volunteer?

When I married and I and my husband moved back to Shropshire, and his family home, my mother-in-law suggested that the League of Friends of the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital was “the charity” to get involved in. Alongside this, I have volunteered with lots of other charities including the NSPCC and St Johns.

Describe what you do in 100 words?

I see it as part of my role to support the local community. The League of Friends particularly meets this, because it doesn’t send its money centrally, but keeps it, and spends it on things identified by the local community. Through the Friends the community had a channel can fund the changes it wants to see. It can ensure they happens.

I sit on the Executive Committee, and the Fundraising Committee, so it’s going to meetings and support the charity governance. It’s also about attending and supporting as much as I can.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I love meeting people, chatting with them, and being part of something that makes the community stronger. It’s important to me, that what I do makes a tangible difference to the lives of people around me.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about volunteering in health and care?

For me, there is a lot about being involved in charity that is about fundraising. It’s about finding a charity that is genuinely local, and then people around you will support what you are doing.

How would you describe the NHS in one word?

Dedicated staff committed to their communities


Patricia Daniels MBE

When did you start volunteering?

I retired in 1989, and began volunteering in earnest in 1991 for Chester Childbirth at the Countess of Chester Hospital.
 
Why did you choose to volunteer?
 
When training as a nurse, I used to make frilled hats for my fellow nurses, and donated the funds to a local charity. Having spent my whole career in the NHS, and retiring as a senior midwife, I knew where things were missing and was determined to make things better.

Describe what you do in 100 words?
 
It’s all been about making a difference to the lives of patients, their families, and the staff.

My major contribution has been setting up and ensuring the smooth running of the Comfort Zone. It is important to me that with all the intensity of life in the hospital that there is a space where people can find some space and recharge for whatever they are facing next.

This, along with lots of events, particularly concerts have raised funds. Examples of things include the Adolescent Unit, the bereavement suite, and the nearby garden

What do you enjoy most about your role?
 
The focus is about the mums, babies, dads, children – everyone associated with the Women and Children’s Unit of the Countess of Chester Hospital. I care about them all. I particularly enjoy being involved with projects and meeting people at all levels.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about volunteering in health and care?
 
If your health is good, choose something you are interested in, something that catches your imagination, and go for it (while being 100% reliable)

How would you describe the NHS in one word?
 
Unique and not always appreciated.


Gareth Owen

Chair of the League of Friends of Maidstone, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust – Kent

When did you start volunteering?

2008

Why did you choose to volunteer?

Because I felt it was something useful that I could do for the community and for the hospital in particular, as it’s something that I’ve always been interested in.

Describe what you do in 100 words?

I’m responsible for the League of Friends; for the wellbeing of the volunteers, for connecting what we do within the strategy of the trust, having regular meetings, looking after our fundraising, chairing the meetings where we decide what we’re going to fund for the hospital and generally being the face of the League of Friends within the trust.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

People. Meeting people, talking to ppl, trying to sort out problems as they arise, looking for solutions to problems and generally being Mr. Fix-it.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about volunteering in health and care?

It is generally one of the most satisfying things that you could ever do. There’s a connection between us and patients through the shop; they like to unload to us and they feel they have somebody to talk to when they want to. We raise money for the hospital and spend it wisely on buying things which enhance the environment of patients and staff. Not everything we do is by way of machinery, but we do other things as well like providing things for members of staff to make their lives a bit easier. It’s the most satisfying thing to do.

How would you describe the NHS in one word?

Brilliant


Cynthia Burton

Volunteer with the Friends of the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, London

When did you start volunteering?

1993

Why did you choose to volunteer?

Well, I was asked by a friend of mine called Jane Gilchrist who was in her 70’s at the time. She and I both had a passion for complementary medicine. So really, that's how it started and the hospital that I belong to is the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, formerly known as the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. So, she said ‘Oh, you must come along. This hospital, particularly, is interested in complementary medicine.’

Describe what you do in 100 words

Firstly, you meet and interact with the other trustees on the committee and help them make decisions on how to spend your funds to help those people in the hospital.

Secondly, you also meet the people in the hospital, you meet the managers, staff, and they also become Friends as well. And we supported the people in the hospital by way of giving grants for items to make the people in the hospital's lives a bit easier. It might have been items that they couldn't afford as well as doing more deeper things like supporting educational training and research. Thirdly, and probably most importantly, you're helping patients who visit the hospital. Now at our hospital we had a snack bar, and we became known at the snack bar for our ‘Tea and Sympathy.’

What do you enjoy most about your role?

It becomes a two-way thing, you’re interacting with not only the people who are patients but the hospital staff. So, you’re kind of a family really and the more you give I think the more you get out of it.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about volunteering in health and care?

When volunteering, you can give a little but get back a lot. So even if you've only got a little bit of time to give, it is rewarding in whatever role that you do. You don't have to give 100% of your time. You can give half a day a week, but it's still valuable time for the organisation that you're working for.

So always consider becoming a volunteer in an area which interests you because then you are rewarded on both sides. You see the benefit that you're giving to people as well as what you're getting out of it. It's definitely a two-way thing.

How would you describe the NHS in one word?

Life-supporting, life-changing


Jan O’Neill

Volunteer Macmillan Cancer Centre and the Guild of the Royal Hospital of St. Bartholomew - London

When did you start volunteering?

2009

Why did you choose to volunteer?

Well, when I retired, I had loved my job and I was absolutely bored to sods. I also felt like a non-person because you meet people and they say, “what do you do?”, first question, and I’d just mumble “retired” and then try to change the conversation, so I really wanted to do something useful again.

Describe what you do in 100 words?

So, I have two roles. One is a volunteer in the Macmillan Cancer Centre at St. Bartholomew’s, and it’s just supporting the needs of staff and listening to patients and their relatives and sometimes directing them to services. But most of my time is really working at the Guild of the Royal Hospital of St. Bartholomew, usually known as Bart’s Guild, and our aim is to benefit patients and staff at the hospital. We do that through personal care like the trolley service on the wards, we run a hospital shop where you can buy just about anything, and volunteers always have time to talk to people who are upset. We give financial help for things like refurbishing rooms, providing equipment for the wards and grants, we also maintain a beautiful little garden within the hospital’s grounds — the Princess Alice Garden — and it’s an absolute haven right in the middle of the city where patients and relatives can sit, and staff quite often go there to eat their lunch. We also take part in all kinds of hospital events. Probably the most important thing I do is that I edit and write for a twice-yearly magazine that the charity has, called Bart’s Guild News, and I also produce the Christmas concert which we hold in Bart’s wonderful Great Hall.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I think it’s just an incredible privilege when patients and their relatives confide in you and I’m just humbled by their courage and their fortitude, they’re amazing people. It’s nice to feel that you’ve helped even in a tiny way. Also, I’m just permanently blown away by the skill and the kindness of the staff at the hospital, everything from Macmillan nurses through to the ladies and gents who clean the wards, the porters, the surgeons, everybody. It’s just amazing to be part of that team even as a tiny little screw in one of the cogs. It’s very satisfying, it’s also fun. In my case it was also really nice to be able to use my professional skills from press work and the theatre earlier on and sort of find a new use for them and that’s great. I think a lot of retired people feel like that, that it’s taken you 40 years to do the job well and then nothing.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about volunteering in health and care?

That’s easy, do it, do it, do it! You’re going to be part of an incredible team and you’re going to meet lots of nice people, make new friends. Whatever your skills or talents are, there’ll be something that you can do.

How would you describe the NHS in one word?

Invaluable