Hospital volunteers help prevent malnutrition, falls and loneliness, research shows

By | February 11, 2019

How NHS workers really DO calm nerves and boost care: Hospital volunteers help prevent malnutrition, falls and loneliness, research shows

  • New report claims volunteers speed up the time it takes for patients to go home
  • Research at five NHS Trusts shows helpers lessen patients’ feelings of anxiety
  • More than 33,000 readers signed up to start six-month placements from this spring in the Daily Mail’s hospital volunteer campaign

Hospital volunteers make a huge difference in preventing malnutrition, trips, falls and loneliness, research has found.

They also greatly reduce patients’ anxiety levels and speed up the time it takes before they can go home.

The findings from five NHS trusts are a major endorsement of the Daily Mail’s hospital volunteer campaign which ran throughout December. 

Helpforce is now working with ten hospitals to deliver specialist volunteering schemes which are expected to have a huge impact. The volunteers who signed up through the Mail will find out about their roles next month after being matched to local hospitals [File photo]

More than 33,000 readers signed up to start six-month placements from this spring, pledging nearly 1.9million hours of support.

The report by Helpforce, the charity which supported our campaign, looked at the impact of having helpers over a 12-month period at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in West London, the West Suffolk Hospitals in Bury St Edmunds, the Northumbria Healthcare trust, the University Hospital Southampton and the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals.

Across the board, volunteers were found to lessen patients’ feelings of anxiety and social isolation and prevent malnutrition by coaxing them to eat their meals.

Patients also suffered fewer trips and falls after being discharged as volunteers helped them do muscle strengthening exercises while on the ward. 

The NHS has promised to double its volunteer army over the next three years as part of its long term plan, from about 78,000 volunteers now to 156,000. More than 33,000 readers signed up to start six-month placements from this spring, pledging nearly 1.9million hours of support [File photo]

At the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, volunteers halved the number of outpatients who missed appointments by sending them text reminders. 

The ‘did not attend’ rate had been 32 per cent but this fell to 16.5 per cent after the trust set up the messaging service manned by volunteers.

A pilot study at the University of Southampton found patients went home an average of four hours quicker once recovered, if they were paired up with a ‘transport companion’. 

These were specialist helpers who assisted patients in settling back at home and ensured their medication was ready on time.

The NHS has promised to double its volunteer army over the next three years as part of its long term plan, from about 78,000 volunteers now to 156,000.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: ‘Throughout its 70-year history volunteers have made a huge contribution to the NHS, freeing staff up to do what they do best – providing world class care. Thanks to the Daily Mail and Helpforce they will play an even bigger role.’

Alexa, can you give me a warning if I’m getting ill?

Smart speakers could be used as ‘virtual medical coaches’ to monitor patients at home, a major report has suggested.

Devices such as Amazon’s Alexa (above) and Apple’s Siri are becoming crucial health tools, the analysis of the NHS’s ‘digital future’ said [File photo]

Devices such as Amazon’s Alexa (above) and Apple’s Siri are becoming crucial health tools, the analysis of the NHS’s ‘digital future’ said [File photo]

Devices such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are becoming crucial health tools, the analysis of the NHS’s ‘digital future’ said, adding that within 20 years similar machines could be used to help manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, depression and high blood pressure.

The gadgets will use artificial intelligence (AI) and ‘deep learning’ to ‘pre-empt hospitalisation’ by spotting when something is wrong, the document said. 

They would connect to wearable sensors, medical data and even detect stress in someone’s voice to tell when their condition was worsening.

The report, commissioned to examine the possibilities of new technology, said: ‘In the future, many aspects of care will shift closer to the patient’s home,’ as robots and AI make diagnoses more accurate.

The report also found that volunteers freed-up NHS staff and saw their self-confidence rise. 

At the Northumbria trust, 25 per cent of younger helpers said their self-esteem had been boosted by working on wards, while the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital found that volunteers taking medication to patients ready to go home had saved staff 140 hours over a year.

Helpforce is now working with ten hospitals to deliver specialist volunteering schemes which are expected to have a huge impact.

The volunteers who signed up through the Mail will find out about their roles next month after being matched to local hospitals.


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