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Volunteer army to ease NHS winter pressure

Thursday, 07 February 2019

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With cold weather closing in across the UK, the NHS is preparing for additional pressures on its services. This month, Health Minister, Stephen Hammond , admitted “winter is always challenging” and this problem seems to be getting worse, emergency admissions via A&E have risen from just over 976,000 in the winter of 2013/14 to over 1.1 million in the winter of 2017/18 . Additionally, research shows that ‘effects of cold weather may be delayed by several weeks following initial exposure’, showing how important the health services are following a cold snap.

In response, Royal Voluntary Service has called for its thousands of volunteers to give extra time and support to ensure the NHS can continue to offer excellent services during the colder months. Over the last three weeks, volunteers have already generously stepped forward to pitch in and offer extra time at one in ten hospitals across Britain. Over 380 extra shifts have taken place, with volunteers dedicating almost 900 hours to hospitals around the country.

"Volunteers can always be relied on to help out when the need is greatest. Often volunteers are prepared to give some additional time to make sure that patients receive that extra support during their visit to our hospital. Handing out free water and fruit to those waiting in the clinics and outpatients department is a lovely idea that will undoubtedly have made a real difference to many people."

Alison Reynolds, Volunteer Services Coordinator at Leicester’s Hospitals. 

"I’ve been volunteering at the hospital for almost 10 years in the Royal Voluntary Service Cafe and as soon as the call went out for volunteers to help out on A&E I put myself forward. I think the doctors and nurses do a brilliant job but they need all of the help they can get at the moment with so many people suffering the effects of cold weather and winter viruses."

Gloria Sullivan Hospital Volunteer in the Royal Voluntary Service café services at Prince Charles Hospital.
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The charity’s volunteers have conducted 412 extra rounds, visiting over 150 additional wards to provide water and fruit to patients, visitors and staff teams alike. Extra stops at A&E and Outpatients have also ensured that those facing longer-than-usual waiting times have had refreshment.

Royal Voluntary Service has been supporting the NHS since its inception 70 years ago and today the charity has thousands of volunteers providing comfort and compassion to staff and patients through its cafés, shops and legendary ward trolleys.

"Having seen the challenges facing NHS services this winter on a daily basis, our volunteers said they would like to do more for the people we support. Their generosity will allow Royal Voluntary Service to send out more trolleys, give faster service and just to be there with a hand of friendship to those who need it most at challenging times. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response to us asking our valued volunteers to do more, but essentially they wanted to do what they have always done and do so brilliantly; roll their sleeves up and pitch in to help. We are incredibly grateful for their support."

Catherine Johnstone CBE, Chief Executive at Royal Voluntary Service
Royal Voluntary Service has worked with its suppliers who have agreed to gift fruit and water. Suppliers include: AF Blakemore & Son Ltd, Ginsters, Brake Bros Ltd, Fulfil UK, Britvic Soft Drinks, Lucozade Ribena Suntory, Walkers PepsiCo, Dandelion, Mondelez, Lucid Direct, Williams of Swansea, Barfield Books and Danone Waters.

For further information

Royal Voluntary Service is one of the largest voluntary service organisations in Britain. We inspire and enable 20,000 volunteers to help people in need in hospitals, at home and in the community.

Our volunteers improve patient experience in hospital, aid recovery after a stay on ward, help older people support themselves at home, stay fit and active and build meaningful social connections.

Royal Voluntary Service supports volunteers to run services in the community such as lunch and dining clubs, physical activity classes, craft, gardening and other hobby groups. We work collaboratively with other charities, social care providers and the NHS to help create a society where everyone feels valued and involved.

The charity is one of the UK’s largest hospital retailers with 230 volunteer-run shops, cafés and trolley services providing tea and company to patients, hospital staff and visitors.

To become a local volunteer search for volunteering opportunities in your area. Or help make a difference by making a secure online donation.

If you are a member of the press and have a media enquiry please contact the Media Team. For all other enquiries, contact us.

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