“If the NHS is a machine, we’re a drop of oil” – Meet the hospital volunteers saving clinical staff valuable time

A new volunteer role at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is saving ward staff countless hours.

The volunteer responders are on-call and at-hand to help ward staff with non-clinical tasks, including delivering patients’ belongings, delivering medication, and transferring patients to the discharge lounge when they are ready to leave the hospital.

Last month, the responders carried out 73 tasks in total, saving staff an average of six hours, based on their average journey time. This is six more hours that nursing and clinical staff have to spend with the patients.

The role began in April this year. Since then, the volunteer responders have committed more than 440 hours to the on-call role, resulting in over 250 completed tasks.

Wayne Johnson and James Peacock have both been volunteer responders since the role’s inception.

Wayne Johnson, a 61-year-old retired NHS worker who lives in Norton, has been volunteering at the Trust for five years. He volunteers primarily in the main outpatients department at the University Hospital of North Tees, helping patients check in.

In April, he took on the additional role as a volunteer responder, acting as an extra pair of hands whenever ward staff need it.

Wayne said: “When I took early retirement, I needed something to get me up and about. As a responder, we free up the time of the clinical staff to do what they are being paid to do – they can help more patients.

“If the NHS is a machine, we’re a drop of oil, helping it to run a little smoother.”

At age 19, Wayne was involved in a motorcycle accident. When asked why he began volunteering at the Trust, Wayne commented: “The NHS has been very good to me, from looking after me when I had my accident, right through my career in cancer research.

“I owe my life and my legs to the NHS.”

The volunteer responders each carry a Vocera device, a hands-free device that gives staff instant communication with one another – a faster alternative to phones and pagers.

When a ward needs some extra support with non-clinical tasks, they can get in touch with the volunteer responders using the voice-activated Vocera system.

33-year-old volunteer James Peacock, from Norton, is based at the main reception in the University Hospital of North Tees, helping patients and visitors find their way around the hospital. In addition to being front-of-house at the hospital, he is also on-call to help the ward staff.

James said: “I volunteered to get out of the house a bit more. I enjoy meeting new people and making a difference to the patients’ days.

“Now that I’m a responder, I get to help out the nurses too. I think the volunteer responder role will only get busier as we prove how useful we can be.”

While the responders carry out a variety of duties, the main task they are called to do is delivering patients’ belongings – a simple task that can make a big difference to the patients, but one that requires a lot of legwork and time away from clinical duties for ward staff.

James and Wayne work closely with the patient experience team at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust who alert them whenever a patient’s family member or friend drops off some belongings or a gift.

To date, the volunteer responders have made more than 170 trips from the patient experience office – where belongings are handed in – to the various wards around the University Hospital of North Tees.

These trips mean that ward staff have more time to spend with patients, completing medical assessments and their clinical duties.

Patient experience team lead Erin Duckers said: “The volunteer responders have provided vital help to not only patient experience, but also to ward staff throughout the pandemic.

“They have supported the patient property drop off service, delivering home comforts and messages of love to patients from those who have been unable to visit at this difficult time.

“They have always gone above and beyond what is expected to help our staff, patients and their relatives during often challenging times – and always with a smile on their face.”

To find out more about volunteering, visit our volunteer page or get in touch with our volunteering team on 01642 383933 or nth-tr.volunteersnth@nhs.net

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