Hospital trust joins new national volunteering organisation

Eat-drink-move-poster_imageStaff at Southampton’s university hospitals have teamed up with a national organisation designed to improve and expand volunteering opportunities in the NHS.

HelpForce was set up by former Marie Curie charity chief executive Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett and aims to double the number of volunteers in hospitals by 2021.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust is one of 12 acute hospital trusts selected to work with the organisation to develop more ‘strategic’ roles and create a model to be rolled out across other trusts.

HelpForce will focus initially on developing and enhancing roles where staff and patients will benefit from additional support, such as at meal times or discharge from hospital, as well as prioritising volunteer help for patients who do not have their own family or wider support network.

Southampton’s involvement follows the success of its mealtime assistance project for older patients, which was launched in 2011 and involves using speech and language therapy and dietetics specialists to help volunteers develop communication skills and nutritional knowledge.

Volunteers now visit older patients in many areas across the trust routinely during mealtimes to open packaging and clean bedside tables, encourage them to eat and drink, help to cut up their food and ensure the right cutlery is available.

More recently, UHS launched ‘eat, drink, move’, an initiative which involves a team of therapy, dietetic, speech and language, nursing and medical staff working alongside volunteers to encourage patients to eat well, keep hydrated and stay active during their hospital admission.

As part of this development, the trust has recruited more mealtime assistants and mobility volunteers.

Carrie Smith, voluntary services manager at UHS, said: “We are delighted to work alongside HelpForce as it looks to improve both the role and number of volunteers able to provide support to staff and patients in NHS hospitals.

“We have demonstrated some excellent recent successes in the creation of these volunteer roles and we look forward to using our experiences to help more patients benefit nationwide.”

Juliet Pearce, deputy director of nursing for quality at UHS, added: “Research has shown that 10 days in hospital can lead to the equivalent of 10 years of ageing in the muscles for people over 80 and inactivity and longer stays make it five times more likely patients will need help at home for longer, be unable to be discharged and require residential or nursing care.

“The ‘eat, drink, move’ programme is helping us to tackle these issues and volunteers are an integral part of the team enabling us to do that, so we hope to see other trusts adopt similar models of care.”

Sir Thomas, who is chair of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We know the benefits that well-managed staff-volunteer teams bring, with substantial improvements in patient care sitting alongside positive feedback from NHS teams.

“We want everyone to experience these benefits as quickly as possible and have developed a focused five-year plan for HelpForce to unlock the potential of volunteers across the country.”

For more information on volunteering at UHS, visit

Posted on Wednesday 6 December 2017