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North East launch for major national volunteering project

Monday, 26 February, 2018

A major new national drive to boost volunteering across the NHS has been launched with young people in the North East today.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is the first of five pilot trusts to kick off its HelpForce project aimed at making volunteering an integral part of healthcare.

Supported by NHS England, HelpForce is working with 12 trusts across the country to improve volunteering practice and make a positive difference for patients, volunteers and NHS staff.

At Northumbria, the trust is initially focussing on youth volunteering and has recruited 28 young people to improve patients’ experiences in hospitals.

The pupils from King Edward VI School in Morpeth and St Benet Biscop Catholic Academy in Bedlington will volunteer on wards at The Northumbria hospital, Cramlington, and Wansbeck General Hospital.

Spending dedicated time with patients while they are staying on wards, the volunteers will work in pairs to facilitate activities to increase social interaction. They will not take on the duties of paid staff, however, contribute to the delivery of high quality patient care by enabling staff to focus on their roles.

The project builds on Northumbria’s strong foundations of volunteering which last year saw it become the first trust in the region, and only the eighth across the country, to be awarded the Investing in Volunteers (IiV) quality standard.

Lauren Seabrook and Ethan Mackey, both 16, are two of the volunteers taking part in the project from Kind Edward VI School, Morpeth.

Lauren, from Morpeth, plans to study medicine after school and become a doctor.

She said: “This project is a great opportunity to spend time in a hospital setting and gain an insight into the types of things I could be doing as a doctor in the future –there’s no other project like it.

“I like helping other people and there aren’t any other professions the public put their trust in quite like doctors – I will be honoured for people to put their trust in me.

“It’s going to be inspiring to meet the patients and staff.”

Ethan, from Ashington, has some knowledge of working in the NHS as his mum Jo works in the operating department at The Northumbria hospital. He hopes to train as a nurse after completing his A-levels.

He said: “I’ve always wanted to work in healthcare and to be able to find out what it’s like to be a hospital environment and interact with patients will be a fantastic opportunity.

“I’ve always enjoyed looking after and helping people and after the NHS cared for my grandma so well before she passed away last year, I’d really like to give something back and gain valuable experience for what hopefully will be my future career.

“I’m really looking forward to starting.”

Brenda Longstaff, head of charity development and volunteering at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “For many years, our volunteers have been at the cornerstone of our organisation, tirelessly and generously giving their time to benefit our patients and staff.

“Young people have an incredible amount to offer society and as a trust we’re passionate about opening up opportunities to help them develop and gain an insight into life in the NHS.

“Working alongside our existing volunteers, the youngsters will play a valuable role spending time with patients to improve their experiences of being in hospital.

“It’s so important when patients, particularly older people, have company and interaction while they’re in hospital. Simple activities such as chatting about old times, playing cards or reading out loud can all help to improve their health and wellbeing, have a positive impact on their recovery and help them get better more quickly.

“We’re delighted to welcome them to Northumbria and be the first of the pilot trusts to launch our programme.”

Paddy Hanrahan, managing director of HelpForce, said: “It is fantastic to see the launch of our first HelpForce volunteering pilot in Northumbria.

“A well-run volunteer scheme has the power to improve the lives of everyone involved; the patients, hospital staff, and the volunteers.

“We are extremely grateful to all the students who have signed up and we are looking forward to following their journey, which will hopefully inspire more volunteers to join in this great movement.”


Media contact:

Jaclyn Curry – Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

0191 203 1654 / 07833 046680