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Celebrating the daily dedication of our volunteers

Posted: 16 December 2019

Picture of the Dr Narayanan
Helping our patients to get well faster and return home sooner

- Some 700 volunteers providing support in 40 different types of role, helping staff in striving to achieve everyday excellence at our hospitals

- Some 300 more volunteers in the application process and due to start within the next few months

- Trained volunteer counsellors offering WHHT’s specialist perinatal counselling delivered at Hemel Hempstead Hospital; cutting down waiting times for mentally vulnerable women

WHHT has a solid tradition of involving volunteers in supporting patient care across our hospitals in Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans.

Picture of volunteerThe 600-strong group of helpers make a very real difference to our patients and complement the work of our paid staff. They bring a richness to how patients’ experience their stay in hospital, reducing anxiety, and helping many to get well faster and return home sooner.
For patients, they offer company and stimulation. For staff, they are enabled to be freed up for focus on clinical care. For the volunteers, there is the opportunity for teamwork, to gain confidence and to experience being in a workplace.

Volunteers commit to a minimum of two to three hours per week for a period of six months and assist in a range of activities ranging from meeting and greeting to getting hands-on during mealtimes on the wards.

All volunteers complete mandatory training, including safeguarding, data protection and hygiene an infection control. There is also specialist training appropriate to volunteer roles including a dining companion, mobility assistant or teenage/ young people volunteer.

Ruth Paterson Voluntary Services Manager said:

“As well as giving patients a helping hand, friendly ear and more holistic support, these committed helpers also give staff the opportunity to concentrate on what they do best - providing clinical treatment and medical care.

“In exchange, we hope that volunteers find that their time spent with us improves their own lives, helping with confidence levels, improving job prospects, building friendships, extending their networks and providing opportunities for an increased sense of purpose in society.

“To celebrate their presence the Trust recently commissioned a short film which was shared across the website and social media platforms See link: ) We’ve also just launched new teal blue volunteer polo shirts in a range of sizes.”

Counselling Volunteers – Hemel Hempstead Hospital

Four trained volunteer counsellors are delivering specialist perinatal services for up to 3½ hours per week each at Hemel Hempstead Hospital, cutting waiting times for mentally vulnerable women.

All volunteers must have either completed or are working towards a diploma or degree course in counselling, psychotherapy or counselling/clinical psychology and be a student member of professional bodies; BACP, UKCP or BPS.

The volunteers support with providing psychological interventions for women during the perinatal period on a range of complex and sensitive issues specific to women’s obstetric health e.g. pregnancy loss (stillbirth, miscarriage, neonatal death), previous traumatic birth, antenatal and postnatal depression and anxiety and foetal abnormality.

Joining the two part-time councillors, who deliver up to 32 sessions between them over three days a week, they attend regular clinical supervision with the Specialist Psychotherapist Service manager Kate Foster.
Kate said: “Women experiencing mental health problems during the perinatal period have specialist treatment needs, requiring specialist expertise. They are likely to have contact with a range of different professionals and services and are best cared for with an integrated approach. Our volunteers have enabled us to see women sooner than otherwise and this is so important to these women at this time of need.”

Rose Volunteers

Hospital staff know that many patients nearing the end of their life can experience loneliness and anxiety. With this in mind a team of four volunteers, specially trained to provide patients with companionship, sit with patients who have nobody else. They also give help to families or loved one’s of those who do, who may either need a shoulder to cry on or the reassurance of knowing that a volunteer can sit with their loved one if they can't be there.

The project aims to:

- Ensure that all our patients feel cared for and supported in their final days, and that no-one dies alone
- Ensure that while protecting patients from isolation we, where possible, stimulate them to ensure that their last days and hours are as fulfilling as possible
- Acknowledge and take to heart that, for many patients, the relationship with their volunteer is their last meaningful human relationship. It is therefore vital we create this manager post to maximise the impact of this relationship.
- Reassure families and friends that a Rose volunteer can be with their loved one, if they cannot

Expanding Youth Volunteers across the sites

The Trust has been awarded a ‘Pears ‘#iwill’ grant to expand youth volunteering across our sites. The fund currently supports the creation of new youth social action opportunities in the areas of health and social care and education.

The grant pays for a youth volunteer coordinator for two years and we have pledged to recruit a further 130 youth volunteers to donate at least eight hours a month, for a minimum of three months and our progress suggests we will far exceed this target.

Range of Roles

We currently offer nearly 40 different roles which are administrative and clerical roles patient facing clinical and non-clinical defined roles, including:

- Patient facing in clinical areas – including general ward volunteers, Rose end of life care volunteers, mobility assistants, survey volunteers, ward activities volunteers, stoma peer supporter volunteers, breastfeeding peer supporters, teenagers & young people peer supporters, dementia friends, dining companions, A&E volunteers, pastoral care volunteers, chaplaincy volunteers, Children’s Carer Support Team volunteers.

- Patient facing in non-clinical areas – including main reception area support, way finders, welcome team volunteers, enquiry desk volunteers, blood clinic reception volunteers, League of Friends tea shop assistants, Macmillan information centre volunteers.


Notes to editors

  1. For more information, please contact the communications team on: 01923 436280 or email: Out of hours, please call 07900 228031.
  2. West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust serves people from across Hertfordshire, north London and further afield. It operates from three hospitals; Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead. The trust has a catchment area of over 500,000 people and is one of the largest employers locally, with around 5,000 staff and volunteers.
  3. For more information about our hospitals, visit You can also join our followers on Twitter ( and find us on Facebook (