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Hospital volunteers receive training to help blind and partially-sighted people

Wednesday, 02 July, 2014
Hospital volunteers receive training to help blind and partially-sighted people

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has become the first trust in the region to implement an initiative to help blind and partially-sighted patients and visitors to its hospitals.

In an innovative partnership between Guide Dogs and Northumbria Healthcare, volunteers at North Tyneside and Wansbeck general hospitals have undergone ‘My Guide’ training to deliver guiding assistance to people.

The Guide Dogs scheme works with organisations and groups to help people with sight loss get out of their homes and back into the community.

During the training, the Northumbria volunteers, who ‘meet and greet’ patients and visitors at hospital entrances, gained an understanding of sight loss, learned about recommended guiding techniques and experienced being guided under blindfold.

Lynn Hindhaugh, volunteer and charity development officer at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are delighted to be able to work in partnership with Guide Dogs and become the first trust in the North East to have our volunteers undergo this training to help people with sight loss access our hospitals more easily.

“Our volunteers provide a warm and friendly welcome to thousands of patients and visitors who come into our hospitals every year. It is great news that they now have greater awareness of visual impairment as well as the confidence and skills to safely guide blind and partially-sighted patients and visitors around our hospitals.”

The volunteers underwent the nationally-recognised My Guide Level 1 training.

Mike Dooley, from Guide Dogs, is the North East’s sighted guide ambassador. He said: “Guide Dogs’ aim is to ensure that blind and partially-sighted people can enjoy the same freedom of movement as everyone else. One way we can achieve this is to make sure that staff and volunteers providing public services are trained to provide safe and confident sighted guide services.

“We are delighted to be working with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to ensure that the volunteers who welcome patients and visitors to Wansbeck and North Tyneside general hospitals are equipped to give the right kind of help to blind and partially-sighted people.”

‘Meeting and greeting’ patients and visitors at hospital entrances is one of the many roles carried out every day by more than 800 Northumbria Healthcare volunteers as part of its Hospital Volunteer Service (HVS). Other roles include facilitating patient activities, providing support at mealtimes and working in HVS shops.

Volunteers provide a much-valued service to patients, visitors and staff. Money raised in HVS shops goes towards improving the hospital environment, buying specialist equipment and providing training for staff.

There are plans to train the volunteers who ‘meet and greet’ patients and visitors at Hexham General Hospital, also run by Northumbria Healthcare.

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