Find out about the people behind Royal Voluntary Service in our series of guest stories from our volunteers, staff and partners.
Meet Richard, who volunteers with his wife in our café in Harrogate District Hospital. He’s been a player of the People’s Postcode Lottery for two years.
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“I love volunteering! I love being able to help people; everyone is an individual and they each have their own story. The hospital staff are like family to us now and we have regular customers come in who come to see us for a chat.
“It’s never nice being in a hospital; it’s an anxious environment. People have concerns about themselves and their relations so I like to help people by chatting to them and trying to put a smile on their face.
“If I see someone sat in the corner of the café looking sad, I will quite often approach and see if I can have a chat with them. I ask them if they’re ok or if I can get them another cup of tea. Sometimes people just want to be left alone but sometimes chatting makes all the difference. There’s nothing like face to face communication.
“My wife and I volunteer together once a week; we make a good team. We take it in turns - every other week one of us will work the counter and serve the teas, coffees and sandwiches while the other works in the kitchen doing the washing and cooking.
“I would definitely recommend volunteering; I can choose the times to suit my schedule and it’s a fantastic way to help lots of people.
“When I clear the plates away in the café, people always say thank you and say they really appreciate the work us volunteers are doing.
Richard was pleased to hear about how players like him were also giving Royal Voluntary Service a big financial boost.
“I’ve been playing about 2 years and won a few tenners here and there. I like to play because although I like to think about winning, I know that money also goes to good causes. I know that donations from players of People’s Postcode Lottery make a big difference to people’s lives.”
Funds raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery
are supporting our services for older people across Great Britain.
Dr Allison Smith, Head of Strategy & Development for Royal Voluntary Service, reveals new evidence that shows Hospital to Home services improve older adults’ recovery after a hospital stay.
"Alone, afraid and unable to cope"
That’s how many patients are sent home from hospital, according to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman in a recent report.
Volunteer to help
None of us relish the thought of a stay in hospital, but for older adults, the experience can be especially challenging. With social care services under pressure, many leave hospital without any support, only to be readmitted.
Hospital stays can be disorientating, and many older adults find it difficult to settle back into their home afterwards, particularly if they have no-one at home to support them. Having someone there to give a word of encouragement, ensure proper nutrition and hydration, or check on medication can make all the difference.
On average 15% of people aged 75 and over are readmitted to hospital within 28 days of discharge. That figure is far too high and represents a major challenge for older adults, their families and for the NHS. No-one should go home from hospital alone unless they choose to. With the right support - at hospital, at home and in the community, that figure could be dramatically reduced and the quality of life for older adults improved.
In Leicester, the Royal Voluntary Service provides a Hospital to Home service in nine hospitals; this is funded by Leicestershire County Council and Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). The service provided six weeks of support for older people returning home from hospital after illness, surgery or an accident. The service prioritises those individuals that are 75 years or older, live alone, have limited or no support locally, and are care giving or in a co-caring relationship. Our staff and volunteers give practical and emotional support to help older people get back on their feet and regain their independence. It also enables quicker discharge from hospital.
In April this year, the University of Oxford analysed the impact of the Leicester Hospital to Home service. The results were very encouraging; amongst a sample of almost 800 – 75% of which were aged 75 years and over – we found a reduction in readmission rates and significant improvements in well being from the point of discharge from hospital to 6 weeks post discharge:
- The service achieved a readmission rate of 9.2%, compared to the national figure of 15% for those aged 75 years and over.
- 70% of older people felt they had improved their level of social contact.
- 52% said they had improved their confidence.
- 47% reported an increase in their happiness levels.
To further improve the outcomes achieved in this service we will trial a one to one 6 week chair based exercise programme - in partnership with Move it or Lose it! - to help people improve their balance, strength and mobility following a stay in hospital. We hope this will further reduce readmission and admissions to hospital, and improve wellbeing.
We think these findings prove the need to provide these types of services to vulnerable older adults going home from hospital.
"This analysis proves how vital that support is to the recovery of an older person who has been in hospital. No one should have to go home alone unless they choose to and it’s to no one’s benefit that they do - not the older person nor the NHS as they are more likely to be readmitted if they are not given the support they need after leaving hospital."
David McCullough, Chief Executive
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Andrew Roberts, Retail Development Manager at Royal Voluntary Service explains why we’re excited to be leading the way on healthier hospital eating.
We’re celebrating! Royal Voluntary Service is the first retailer in the UK to achieve a tough new standard for healthy eating in hospitals, set by the Scottish Government.
Two of our shops in Scotland - at West Glasgow Ambulatory Care Hospital and Western General Hospital in Edinburgh in The Anne Ferguson Building – have been awarded the Scottish Grocers Federation Healthcare Retail Standard (HRS).
Find out about our shops and cafés
Achieving the new standard means that we meet – and in some areas, exceed – strict nutritional criteria set for the items we offer. That means:
By spring 2017, every healthcare retailer in Scotland will have to meet the new standard. But we didn’t want to wait until then - or limit ourselves to Scotland. That’s why last year, we launched Healthy Choices - an initiative we’re rolling out across all 440 of our hospital shops, cafés and trolley services in Scotland, England and Wales introducing healthy food and drink choices.
- More than 50% of the items we sell are from a healthier range
- Fat, salt and sugar levels have been reduced
- We offer more healthy choices in our meal deals, like sugar-free drinks, fresh and dried fruit
- We only offer promotions on healthier items
- We’ve dramatically reduced space for crisps, confectionery and sugary drinks.
Achieving the Healthcare Retail Standard is recognition for the impact of Healthy Choices, and West Glasgow and Western General have set the bar for our other hospital sites.
Having a healthy workforce is an important priority for the NHS. Earlier this year, we asked hundreds of hospital doctors and nurses about their eating habits when working. They told us that they regularly skip meals, snack and eat unhealthily. Many of them blamed their poor eating habits on the lack of healthy options available where they work.
We’ve been a trusted partner to the NHS for over 30 years. That’s why we’re being proactive in our efforts to help support a healthier workforce. By revitalizing our hospital retail sites through Healthy Choices, people working, visiting and staying in hospital will be able to choose from a wide range of healthy food and drink options.
Our shops and cafés all over the country are staffed by volunteers. Join our volunteer team
Julie Robinson from Move It or Lose It
shares her top tips on how to stay active as we get older.
Everyone has their reasons for wanting to stay active as we get older. Whether it’s to stay healthy, reduce risk of illness or shed unwanted pounds, it’s important to keep our muscles strong.
From the age of 30, the number of muscle cells in our bodies begins to decrease by 1-2% per year. We can combat this by doing activities
which ensure we keep, or improve, our muscle mass. This helps with lots of things that keep us fit, healthy and living independently in our later years.
Exercise can improve balance and coordination which, in turn, can help to prevent falls. It can also prevent or slow osteoporosis and lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia and other serious illness. Staying active can improve your immune system, help you to sleep better and gives you a boost of feel good chemicals too!
Guidelines say we should do 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. This can be broken down into smaller chunks. Here’s what you should keep in mind when you’re exercising:
Stretching keeps our joints supple so we can reach up into cupboards and bend down to put on shoes. Try this exercise to help with leaning down and posture:
- Stand up tall and imagine you’re between two panes of glass so you can’t twist.
- Tighten up your abdominal muscles and lean to one side, keeping your head in line with your spine.
- Return so you’re sitting up straight and repeat on the other side.
- Repeat 4 times each way.
Do an activity to get your heart, breathing and body temperature up to feel the difference. This could a brisk walk or simply stepping up and down on your stairs. If you find walking difficult, sit on a dining chair and “march” on the spot with your arms and legs – lively music helps!
Our balance can decline without us realising it. It’s vital for all sorts of activities like getting out and about. Give this exercise a go to improve your balance:
- Face a kitchen work surface and hold on to it for support with your feet hip-width apart.
- Lift both heels and hold for a count of ten then lower with control.
- Over time, work on doing this with just fingertip support and then without holding on.
- As you get more advanced, you can try balancing on one leg but make sure there’s something to hold on to.
All activities are easier if we’re strong and it can help with energy levels as a strong muscle is more efficient and tires less. We use resistance bands in our classes but you can give this sit-to-stand exercise a go at home:
Download free exercise guides from Move it or Lose it.
- Put a strong upright chair with its back to the wall to steady it.
- Sit up tall, towards the front of the chair with your feet lined up under your knees.
- Lift up out of the chair and then sit down again with control.
- Take note of how many you can do in 30 seconds and track how you improve!