NHS at 70: Chorley Hospital Radio and how its team of volunteers is striking the right note with patients and staff

From left, Alan Robinson, Janet Pickstop, Terry Diviney, Gill Hardiker, Laura Balshaw, and Diane Herring from Chorley Hospital Radio.
From left, Alan Robinson, Janet Pickstop, Terry Diviney, Gill Hardiker, Laura Balshaw, and Diane Herring from Chorley Hospital Radio.
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As the country marks 70 years since the inception of the NHS, volunteers at Chorley Hospital’s resident radio station speaks to TOM EARNSHAW about what it’s like being a voluntary organisation within the health service...

“We have no funding,” explained Chorley Hospital Radio (CHR) chairman Laura Balshaw.

“But what we do have is a small purpose built studio which not all hospitals have. We are very fortunate."

Laura is the current head of CHR, and is the driving force behind a team of 20 or so volunteers that keep the radio station on air, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Laura said: “If you switch it on there will be something playing. We have had people waking up at 2am not being able to sleep and sticking it on their headphones.

“We have three request shows through the week as well as a mix of pre-recorded shows playing 70s music, soul, relaxing songs, 80s pop.

“We try and accommodate for all the patients and their interests.”

The station is run by a team whose ages range from 20 to 84, with them all preferably coming from the local area.

“We do like to have people from the area because it gives that added touch to patients’ experiences,” explained Clayton-le-Woods resident Laura.

“It’s very close within the community.”

The history of the station goes back 50 years, with the station’s own golden celebrations coming this September.

And for Laura and her team, the station exists to give patients that sense of normality in what can be a stressful period.

“In 1968 radio was the biggest medium, not many had TVs,” explained Laura.

“It was a way for people to stay in touch with the community [when in hospital]. People in there could be having operations that would have taken weeks before they could leave, and not everyone had visitors, so it was another way to have people ‘stand by your bedside’.”

Nowadays the radio station has become more accessible thanks to the growth of social media, email, and the internet in general, and has subsequently become more than just a service for patients.

“Nurses and doctors do their jobs and are obviously stretched for time. The radio has become a life line for them in their downtime,” Laura said.

“People can also send in messages through from across the world because of the internet. It connects us with staff and patients more than ever before.”

Laura first got involved in the radio station after listening to it when she was a patient herself back in 2001.

She said: “I was a patient before all this. I had an operation and had a bad reaction so had to stay in.

“I had done some DJ’ing in my younger days so said I wanted to get involved in some capacity.

“It has changed so much in that time – just like the NHS itself. If someone had said I could listen to us outside of the hospital back then I would have laughed.”

Laura added: “We are really proud to be working with the NHS. It is a great thing to collaborate with them on and we can take lots of positives as an organisation.

“We will always support them and are so grateful for the support they give us too.”

The former St Michael’s CE High School student added: “My mum is 76 and she was recently telling me about my grandparents and what it was like for them before the NHS. They came from a generation where if you were ill people couldn’t just go to hospital.

“We take it for granted – it’s as simple as that.”