If you are one of the 1 million + patients the NHS deals with every 36 hours, wouldn’t you want a friendly face dedicated exclusively to your non-clinical needs?

Jullie Tran Graham is a Programme Manager in the Health Lab at Nesta. She has an interest in our (you, me, and the rest of society) collective ability to work alongside public services to make positive contributions to the way services are provided. She tweets at @tran_graham

integrated_care_pathway_-_age_ukVolunteering is a long-established tradition across the NHS. Millions of people already volunteer in health and care, but tens of millions would consider it. How do we tap into this resource most effectively and ensure that volunteering input is creating the most impact on patient experience and outcomes? The Helping in Hospitals programme looked to answer these questions and more. In 2013, Nesta, the UK’s innovation charity, launched the Helping in Hospitals programme, with funding from the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health. Over the past two years, we have worked with ten hospital trusts in England to support the creation of impact volunteering opportunities such as roles that improve dementia care and roles that facilitate better nutrition for older patients. We have also worked with our evaluation partners, The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP), to systematically measure of the impact of these volunteering roles in hospitals through informal match comparison groups, where possible and pre-post approaches.   

A couple of weeks ago, we published our encouraging results of the programme through the “Helping in Hospitals Guide” and the final evaluation report. Our research has found that approximately thirty per cent of all outcomes measured produced a statistically significant positive result. This includes the majority of hospitals finding statistically significant positive results on patient mood, nutrition and hydration levels, and releasing nurses’ time to care. As well, some hospitals also found statistically significant positive results on patient experience and anxiety levels.

What does this mean in practice? Our hope is that all hospital trusts read our guidance and start asking questions. For those in senior leadership or service management positions, we encourage you to review your volunteering strategy and ask yourselves “how can our volunteering service support key organisational needs?” and “what volunteering roles can be created to meet these needs?”. For those in front line position, we want you to continuously ask yourself on a day-to-day basis “what jobs do I wish I had time to do that volunteers could help with?”. We know that by answering these questions, we can create the right conditions to design and scale high-quality volunteering roles that can have very positive impacts on patients, staff, trusts and the local community.

I know that if I was one many millions of people the NHS treats on regular basis, I would most certainly want a friendly face dedicated exclusively to my non-clinical needs. This is particularly true if I knew that the friendly face was going to improve my experience and potentially, recovery in hospital.

“Volunteering in hospitals is as important to recovery as medication. Volunteers bring human kindness into busy hospital life, enhance the care we provide and help patients return to an active life post discharge.” Kingston Hospital

For more information on the programme or the results, please contact jullie.trangraham@nesta.org.uk or health@nesta.org.uk.

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