Published on: 6 February 2018

Hospital volunteers have responded generously to increased pressures faced by local NHS services this winter, with the offer to work extra hours at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.

The Royal Voluntary Service volunteers – who provide comfort and compassion to staff and patients through cafes, shops and their legendary ward trolleys - said they wanted to do more to help.

From Monday 22 January, the charity’s volunteers have been conducting extra rounds with their trollies and providing free water and fruit to patients, visitors and staff teams alike.

Extra stops in Emergency Departments and in waiting areas to relieve pressure points will ensure those facing longer-than-usual waiting times will be offered some refreshment.

Kate Bull, Executive Director of Retail at Royal Voluntary Service said: ‘Having seen first- hand the winter pressures being faced by the NHS, our volunteers said they would like to do more for the people we support. So using the gift of volunteering that our teams are willing to offer, we have asked for them to give us and the NHS more of their time. This will allow Royal Voluntary Service to send out more trolleys, give faster service and just to be there with a smiling face to extend a hand of friendship to those who want it. We’ve asked our suppliers to help us and, thanks to their support, we will be able to give free bottles of water and fruit to anyone in 10 hospitals who need it from our trolleys as they move around the hospital.”

Following a call for its volunteers to work extra shifts, six volunteers and staff who currently work in the hospital stepped forward to pitch in and help by giving 18 additional hours per week of their time for free.

Kate Bull said: “Royal Voluntary Service has been supporting the NHS since it was founded nearly 70 years ago and we wanted to be able to do something to ease the current pressure faced by all NHS trusts. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response but essentially our volunteer pool wanted to do what they have always done and do so brilliantly; roll their sleeves up and pitch in to help.”

Melanie Johnson, Director of Nursing and Patient Experience at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our volunteers make a huge contribution across the Trust and are very valued members of the team. During the winter months we do generally experience an increase in the number of patients that come into the hospital and because of this unfortunately some people will have to wait a little longer to be seen. Knowing that we have the support of our volunteers to offer refreshments and a smile makes a huge difference and we are so grateful for the time they give to the Trust and the positive impact that they have on our patients.”

From January 22 for four weeks the charity has been offering this extra voluntary service in 10 hospitals across Britain.

The fruit and water has been gifted by Royal Voluntary Service suppliers, Highland Spring, AF Blakemore and Brakes.

Royal Voluntary Service is one of Britain’s largest volunteering charities with over 25,000 volunteers supporting over 100,000 older people each month in hospitals and the community. The focus is on helping older people live the life they want to live through an array of social activities and more structured support. Working across hundreds of hospitals in the community, the charity is one of the largest retailers in the NHS, with its network of cafes, shops and trolley services providing much valued services in hospitals.