Launch of major health volunteering project in county

From left, volunteers Ethan Mackey and Lauren Seabrook with patient Audrey Greenwell at The Northumbria hospital. Picture by Gavin Duthie.
From left, volunteers Ethan Mackey and Lauren Seabrook with patient Audrey Greenwell at The Northumbria hospital. Picture by Gavin Duthie.

A new national drive to boost volunteering across the NHS has been launched with young people in Northumberland.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is the first of five pilot trusts to kick-off its HelpForce project, which has the aim of improving patients’ experiences in hospitals.

Supported by NHS England, HelpForce is a Community Interest Company working with 12 trusts across the country.

It wants to enable volunteers to play a greater role in supporting NHS staff so that staff can focus more time on providing expert medical care.

Northumbria Healthcare is initially focussing on youth volunteering and has recruited 28 young people.

The pupils from King Edward VI School in Morpeth and St Benet Biscop Catholic Academy in Bedlington will volunteer on wards at The Northumbria hospital and Wansbeck General Hospital.

They will work in pairs to facilitate activities to increase social interaction. They will not take on the duties of paid staff.

KEVI student Lauren Seabrook, from Morpeth, plans to study medicine after school and become a doctor.

The 16-year-old said: “This project is a great opportunity to spend time in a hospital setting and gain an insight into the types of things I could be doing as a doctor in the future.

“It’s going to be very inspiring to meet the patients and staff.”

Brenda Longstaff, head of charity development and volunteering at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Working alongside our existing volunteers, the youngsters will play a valuable role spending time with patients to improve their experiences of being in hospital.”