‘Giving just a little bit of your time can make the world of difference’

Maureen Platt, a volunteer at Chorley Hospital, in the Rookwood Wing with Betty

Maureen Platt, a volunteer at Chorley Hospital, in the Rookwood Wing with Betty

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Lancashire Teaching Hospitals has partnered with the Royal Voluntary Service to increase voluntary services at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital.

Aasma Day talks to Maureen Platt, who volunteers at the hospital to support dementia patients, about why volunteering is so fulfilling

Seeing how much of a difference you can make makes you feel wonderful, and you realise how worthwhile it is to be a hospital volunteer.

As Maureen Platt headed over to a dementia patient in hospital, she noticed the woman was looking tired and weary.

However, after Maureen spent just 10 minutes chatting, listening and playing dominoes with the lady, her face had undergone a transformation and was instantly more perky.

Maureen, 63, who lives in Brinscall, near Chorley, says: “Some patients in hospital feel alone. Some don’t get visitors or have visitors who can only come at certain times, while others just like to see a different face.

“Giving them just a little bit of your time and talking and listening to them can make the world of difference.

“Seeing how much of a difference you can make makes you feel wonderful, and you realise how worthwhile it is to be a hospital volunteer.”

Maureen, who has been married to Glynn for 43 years and has a daughter and four grandchildren, worked as a homecare co-ordinator organising care in the community, but decided to retire around 18 months ago.

Although Maureen had plenty to occupy her time with her home and spending time with her grandchildren, she knew she wanted to do something for herself, which would involve getting out of the house.

When she saw a newspaper advert looking for volunteers for Chorley Hospital, she knew she had found what she was looking for.

Maureen explains: “The advert said they were looking for volunteers to help out with dementia patients, and as I had a background in caring, this appealed to me.

“I thought it would give me something and give the patients something too.”

Maureen mainly visits and volunteers for dementia patients, as well as patients who have suffered strokes. Her volunteering role involves chatting to patients, spending time with them doing exercises and getting them a drink.

Maureen says: “I do things such as talk to them, listen to them, brush their hair, play music to them and make them a drink.

“I also do things like hand exercises for stroke victims.

“The more you can get the patients doing, the better they tend to feel and then, hopefully, get independent enough to go home.

“I have been volunteering at the hospital since November last year, and I would really recommend it as it makes you feel you are doing something worthwhile, and you feel like you are making a difference to the lives of patients, even if it is only in a small way.”

Maureen volunteers once a week at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital and says people should spare whatever time they can – even if it is only a few hours – to help others.

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust, which runs the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble Hospitals, has joined forces with the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) to increase voluntary services at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital.

The Department of Health is providing a £1.2m grant to three charities – the RVS, Age UK and British Red Cross – to work with 29 NHS trusts across the country.

The funding will help to improve support for patients, including working in the community to help prevent hospital admissions among older people, as well as giving enhanced follow-up support once people have been discharged from hospital.

The funding has been provided for an initial 12-week trial programme, with a plan to extend it further.

Suzanne Hargreaves, operations director at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, says: “We are delighted we are going to benefit from this grant from the Department of Health.

“We have been working with the Royal Voluntary Service for years now and their volunteers are valuable members of our team.

“Our hospitals are busier than ever and the extra support in preventing hospital admission and supporting discharge will prove to be invaluable.”

Lesley Thompson, head of support and development at the Royal Voluntary Service West England and Wales, says: “RVS volunteers have been supporting 
the NHS since it was founded in 1948, and we are pleased this funding will enable us to work alongside clinical teams in the most under pressure NHS Trusts to improve the wellbeing of older people.

“With an ageing population putting mounting pressure on hospitals and local authorities, we believe this is where the voluntary sector can prove invaluable.

“We know that the emotional and practical support our trained volunteers provide can aid the recovery of older patients, reducing delayed discharge and easing the pressure faced by busy A&E departments.”