Hospital hopes to find friends for lonely patients | Latest news

Hospital hopes to find friends for lonely patients

Volunteer Jane Gibb Pinderfields Hospital is looking for sociable, committed and compassionate volunteers to befriend those patients who rarely - if ever - get visitors.


The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust wants people to come into their elderly care wards in Wakefield and spend a few hours per week getting to know patients living with conditions such as dementia. 


By doing so, volunteers could build up their CV and improve their own job prospects, free-up time for nurses and other clinical staff to get on with medical duties and even enable their new friends to get better, quicker.


A recent study by Age UK revealed that a million older people have not spoken to a family member, friend or neighbour in at least a month. Scientific research has also suggested that isolation and associated low mood can supress the immune system and lower life expectancy (see http://www.nhs.uk/news/2015/11November/Pages/Loneliness-may-affect-the-immune-system.aspx)


“Even in a fantastic hospital like Pinderfields, a patient’s will to get better plays a huge part in their recovery” said Vikki Padgett, Volunteer Services Manager at The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust. “By offering comfort, stimulation and a sense of purpose to our patient’s days, these volunteers could become life-savers.”


The Trust wants to recruit eight volunteers each for their three elderly care wards, who could work morning, afternoon or evening shifts. Induction, safeguarding and nutritional training (as the befrienders may well be feeding patients) will be given. Volunteers will also learn about the Forget Me Not initiative which enables new carers coming into the workplace to understand and improve the environment and wellbeing of people with dementia.  


Pinderfields is already able to boast an impressive team of volunteers, who perform varied but crucial tasks including guiding people to wards and departments when they first visit. A national survey due to be published by charity Nesta showed that young people – anxious to bolster their career prospects – had grasped the nettle when it came to volunteering, whilst the over 55’s were more reluctant (1). That picture is mirrored at Pinderfields.


“We would like to see more older people helping our patients, as they have life experience to add to the other skills they can bring” continued Vikki “and our current crop of volunteers includes people who have had successful careers and brought up families.


Whilst we have had volunteers on wards before, this is the first time we have encouraged them to have a close friendship with patients that will include talking and listening to them and even helping signpost them to organisations who can help them after they’ve been discharged. This could be a wonderful opportunity for someone to help their local hospital, improve their hopes of getting a job and form lasting, warm and worthwhile friendships with the people who need it most.”


To become Befriender or a volunteer in any other capacity at The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, email volunteer@midyorks.nhs.uk