During this year’s Volunteers’ Week (1st – 7th June 2021) the Trust is taking the time to say thank you to our volunteers for their incredible support.

The theme this year is ‘A time to say thanks’, and we have a lot to thank our Volunteer workforce for.

It goes without saying that volunteers have played a key role in the pandemic response.

Claire Unwin, Volunteer & Charity Development Officer at NCIC, said:

“We would like to use this opportunity to say a big thank you to all our wonderful volunteers.

“Volunteers at NCIC play an important role in improving the overall experience our patients receive. Whether they’re providing support at events, helping out with administrative duties or providing a meet and greet service. We really appreciate all the contributions they all make by donating their time and skills to help us.

“Volunteers are an essential part of the NHS and are such a valuable asset, they are professional, enthusiastic, selfless and compassionate.They take such pride in their role and have a wonderful relationship with the staff, patients and relatives.

Some people came forward to volunteer for the Trust for the first time during the pandemic. They helped in a range of roles, including new one such as helping deliver patients’ personal items to the wards while visiting is suspended. Some of those volunteers have now had to step down, for example as furlough ends, and we thank them for supporting us at the height of the pandemic. Others have stayed with us on a more permanent basis for which the Trust is extremely grateful. 

Barbara Ross started volunteering at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said:

“I have laughed and cried with visitors and patients but if I take one thing away from my time volunteering so far with the NHS it is how grateful people are when you help them. I have been surprised by their gratitude as I haven’t felt that I am doing anything special.

“Clearly, however, small the gestures - and the loan of an empathetic ear - in their time of need does make a big difference.”

Some existing Volunteering roles changed slightly, for example the Chaplaincy team set up Chaplaincy pastoral table in the atrium of both CIC & WCH. Some also worked collaboratively with partners including ‘Salute the NHS’ to deliver meals to staff across the NCIC area.

Helen Downie is a Meet and Greet volunteer with the Trust.

She said:

“Volunteering is a rewarding way to give back to the NHS. Your path may cross with others that it might not have in your everyday life and you will see both the positive effects that this has on them and ultimately on yourself.”

Some long standing NCIC volunteers haven’t been able to volunteer during the pandemic for a range of reasons. We thank them sincerely  for looking after themselves, and for supporting the recovery process by staying home and protecting the NHS.

The Trust has more than 150 volunteers who spend their time in a number of areas, including; Chaplaincy, meeting and greeting patients, volunteers based on wards and in outpatient clinics, radio Haven volunteers at West Cumberland Hospital, and in the MacMillan Cancer Support & information Centre based at the Cumberland Infirmary.

Chief Executive Lyn Simpson shared her own message of thanks:

“It’s Volunteers’ Week this week and I just wanted to pass on my thanks to all our volunteers who work across our Trust sites.

“Our volunteers perform a wide variety of roles and provide a valuable service helping our patients, visitors and staff. We simply would be lost without them.

“Their endless dedication – particularly during a pandemic - to helping others is inspiring.

“It is wonderful to read the case studies of how some of you got into volunteering and it is touching to hear how it has helped some of you on your own personal journeys.

“Giving time to the NHS and helping others is something which the Trust is most grateful for.

“Our volunteers should be proud of the work they do and I hope they enjoy being in the limelight this week.”

We are not currently looking for volunteers however when we are in a position to do so we’ll advertise the positions via NHS jobs. People who are interested in volunteering can also register their interest with us and we will contact you if future opportunities become available.

Jacky likes to be busy. She enjoys helping people.Jacky Kapoor.jpg

She said: “Family commitments and child care mean I am not ready to take on a paid position so being able to help where I can also helps me to feel like I am contributing something.”

During the pandemic, Jacky was unable to see her parents and some relatives as they live more than 120 miles away – so she decided to help other people instead.

She said: “I enjoy everything about ‘helping out’ in this role. I feel the relatives and friends who drop off the belongings see me as a friend, someone to talk to and I listen and support them. If I can make a difference to their day, even for five minutes it is good. I feel like it is rewarding.

“Sometimes when you hear what families are going through it is heart breaking – you just want to reach out to them but the pandemic makes that difficult. I tried to keep it together but one day during the pandemic I had to go into A&E and I have to admit I had a little cry.

Jacky says she has been “well supported” in her role and felt “safe” throughout. She says she would recommend volunteering to anyone who is interested.

Anne Marie Hyde.pngAnne Marie has been a Meet and Greet volunteer for the last five years. You will see her behind the desk at the main entrance of the West Cumberland Hospital several times a week.

She said: “I was going through a bad time and realised that I needed to get out and meet people. I saw the volunteer role advertised and decided to apply. I was normally an outgoing, bubbly person and wanted to help others, so the Meet and Greet role was ideal, and I soon got my confidence back. Over the years I have made some good friends in the other volunteers. We are like a big happy family.

“I benefitted by having routine in my life again and a sense of wellbeing, while helping others and making them happy.

“Things have been a bit different from the start of the pandemic. At first I was a bit worried about going in to volunteer, but with the help of the Lead Volunteer, Joe Dean, we all got used to the changes and restrictions and new procedures put in place for our safety, and the safety of all staff and visitors. We are behind a plastic screen and wearing masks, so it’s not as easy to communicate with people and it’s not as relaxed as usual, but when I think of what our frontline staff have had to endure, it puts thing into perspective.”

Barbara Ross.jpgBarbara tells us about how – when Covid struck – she felt the need to do something to help.

She said: “I knew I needed to do something, help someone, support somewhere, be involved and in some way give back to the community, but I didn’t know what? That’s when I decided to do something and applied to become an NHS volunteer.

“I didn’t know if I would be accepted, what to expect, where, who with, and what training I would need to do, even if I did have something to give, but I am so pleased that I took a step forward and filled in the application form. I registered as a volunteer at West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven and for the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and once I had completed the induction training, which was very informal but informative, I was ready to go!

“From day one I have felt comfortable and supported in my volunteering post, particularly by the Patient Experience and PALS teams, and felt my presence in the hospital was worthwhile given that visitors are only allowed in the main entrance to bring and take away belongings from their loved ones.

“Patients attending day appointments are also attending on their own in line with NHS national guidelines, so the volunteers are crucial in being the face, ear and arm (plus a smile, albeit behind a face mask!) to support individuals while the NHS staff do the more serious stuff.

“I have laughed and cried with visitors and patients but if I take one thing away from my time volunteering so far with the NHS it is how grateful people are when you help them. I have been surprised by their gratitude as I haven’t felt that I am doing anything special.

“Clearly, however, small the gestures - and the loan of an empathetic ear - in their time of need does make a big difference.

“Even if you can take someone’s mind off their problem for a minute in their day it has been worthwhile.” 

Gordon Dodds.pngGordon Dodds, a retired Crane Commissioning Engineer, has been a volunteer in Larch A/B and is now in A&E at the Cumberland Infirmary.

Gordon’s role has changed from engaging in patient welfare, to supporting the staff in stores, and making sure all the departmental store items are in the right location within the top up areas.

Before Covid-19 he was involved in the ‘15 Steps’ inspections and through his friendship with the Director of Nursing at Moorfield Hospital, London, he was instrumental in initiating communications between the Trust Governance and Compliance department and Moorfield regarding the 15 Steps inspection programme that CIC had refined. 

Gordon has contributed towards various department proficiency projects and mock CQC inspections, as well as helping Registrars with their research projects in the form of making up medical procedure kits.

He spends around 30 hours a week in the department and enjoys all his tasks.

A&E staff consider Gordon as a well-respected member of their team and he describes the staff as a “family looking out for one another.”

Helen Downie.jpgHelen started volunteering as a Meet and Greet volunteer just after the start of the pandemic as she was keen to use her additional free time to volunteer and feel useful.

She said: “Despite the daily governmental briefings, to observe the NHS at work was thought provoking and eye opening.

“As this pandemic has truly highlighted, team work is key. Yes, we need the specialist medical help but we also need the housekeeping, porters, estate workers and volunteers

“The generosity of the public and their lovely cards was humbling. 

“Throughout the pandemic I have been inspired by the relentless work of all the hospital staff, so this was a great way I could show my appreciation.

“Our work and efforts matter. Volunteering is a rewarding way to give back to the NHS. Your path may cross with others that it might not have in your everyday life and you will see both the positive effects that this has on them and ultimately on yourself.”

Helen has some advice for anyone thinking of volunteering.

She said: “Please consider volunteering, you will make a difference and you will be able to look back on these “unprecedented times” with pride.

Robin McCormick.jpgRobin has worked as a volunteer at NCIC for thirteen years, he started as a volunteer in the dermatology department and continues to help the staff there for a few hours on a weekly basis.

Fiona Sheridan, Lead Nurse on the Medical Procedures Unit, said: “Robin has been a volunteer with us in MPU for the past seven years, helping staff and patients within the unit for a few hours each week.

“Robin helps staff with stationery, taking errands, making tea and coffee for patients but most of all he is the weekly tonic that lifts the patient's spirits and the morale of the team!

“Nothing is ever too much trouble for him and he will go out of his way to help, eager to learn new things and takes everything in his stride, always a pleasure to be around. He is one of life's very true gentlemen whom we have the honour of knowing.

Hospital Radio Haven is broadcast to patients and staff at the West Cumberland Hospital.

The station is manned by small number of dedicated volunteers as chair, John Hopkins explains.

He said: “The station has been broadcasting to the patients and staff at the West Cumberland Hospital - and the Castlepark Hospital before that - since 1955.”

Covid changed the way the station could operate.

Mr Hopkins said: “During the pandemic we decided that we could still broadcast using the Internet as we couldn’t use the studio, although we did put all of the safety and cleaning recommendations in place.

“Thanks to a donation from one of our members, we purchased access to an Internet radio server - and the relevant licences - and since April 2020 we have broadcasting over the internet. When lockdown restrictions were eased we were able to gain access to the studio to broadcast to the bedside units, for patients that do not have internet access.”

The station recently received a grant from a local employer to update some of the studio equipment.

Mr Hopkins said: “We are always looking for new members but we have just started taking recorded shows from other radio DJ’s and these can be played over the Internet and from the studio to the bedside units.

“We feel as volunteers we provide a great service for patients and families.

“If anyone has anything that they would like us to put out over the airwaves - to promote a charity or even an idea for a radio show - just send us an email at hospitalradiohaven.co.uk.”