Published on: 20 May 2022

A celebratory afternoon tea has been served up to volunteers to thank them for their dedication.

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has held a gathering for its Wearside supporters at Sunderland Royal Hospital, with another hosted at South Tyneside District Hospital for its helpers based in the borough.

Trust leaders helped serve up desserts and drinks and were able to catch up with its network of volunteers who help across its hospitals as well as the Intermediate Assessment and Rehabilitation (ICAR) service, based at Houghton Primary Centre, and St Benedict’s Hospice in Ryhope.

It comes as the organisation looks to recruit a new intake of people into a host of roles, with opportunities opened up as the NHS begins to recover from the pandemic.

As he welcomed guests, Trust Chief Executive Ken Bremner MBE addressed the parties to offer his gratitude for all their help, with a special thanks offered to John Anderson, who has retired as chairman after 14 years of services, with newly appointed Chair, Allison Thompson also among those to attend the events. 

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Ken Bremner MBE welcomes volunteers to the event held at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Mr Bremner said: “Volunteers are a vital part of our service and we, along with our patients, value their contribution very highly, so I was delighted to be able to show our appreciation as we welcomed them to these celebrations.

“It follows a very challenging two years and we continue to recover from the pandemic, but we know together with our staff, our volunteers will be with us as we look ahead to brighter times.”

Among those to attend the Sunderland event was Kathy Richardson, who recently retired as an Emergency Department receptionist after 46 years. She continues to help at St Benedict’s Hospice, where she first began to help serve food and drinks and chat to patients 26-years-ago.

The 66-year-old was invited to help cut the cake which was served up to fellow volunteers.

Kathy said: “It was really nice to cut the cake and the party makes us feel appreciated.

“I love volunteering at St Benedict’s. As I am not actively involved in patient care, I have more time to spend time with the patients one on one and have a chat.

“Over the years I have met so many good people and the staff there are amazing.

“The best thing about it is the fact you feel you’re helping other people and St Benedict’s is like having another family.”

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Executive Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals Melanie Johnson, St Benedict's volunteer Kathy Richardson, Trust Chief Executive Ken Bremner MBE and Trust Chairman Allison Thompson.

The event at South Tyneside District Hospital brought together a host of volunteers, many who offer their support through the League of Friends at South Tyneside Hospital group, which runs the shop and helps fundraise.

Chair Josie Wigham said: “We always get good support from the Trust and this makes us feel appreciated.

“We had to shut during lockdown, but we’re delighted to be back.”

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Eddie Fenwick and Josie Wigham, chairman of the League of Friends of South Tyneside District Hospital.

The cake at the South Tyneside event was cut by Margaret Donaldson, 90, who was congratulated on her milestone birthday during a special presentation led by Mr Bremner earlier this year.

The Trust is in the process of developing its volunteering service and is looking for a host of people to join its ranks in various roles.

These include ward helpers and activity supporters, Dementia Friends, dining champions, supporting Emergency Department staff and as navigators and mobility assistants.

Anyone interested can email or telephone the Volunteer Liaison Coordinator between 8.30am and 4pm Monday to Friday on 07341 115 215.

People interested in helping the League of Friends at South Tyneside Hospital can call in to the shop in the Ingham Wing entrance and speak to one of the team.

Volunteers met members of the Trust's leadership team during the events.