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Helping Hands – volunteer experiences

Monday 27 April 2020

Staff from across the organisation have rallied together to support the new ‘Helping Hands’ service which is being offered to St Barnabas House patients and vulnerable volunteers in the community. So far, as well as doing shopping trips and prescription pick-ups, the team have made over 200 phone calls to keep in touch with people and help tackle loneliness.

Here, members of staff share their experiences of what it has been like to step outside their usual roles and volunteer for Helping Hands.

Lucy and Ella

“We work in the Community Companions team, part of Community Services. Normally, we would be busy supporting our Community Companions, but now that volunteers are making phone calls to patients instead of visits, a lot of the day to day logistical planning has slowed down.

Ella, Lucy - Helping HandsThis has allowed us to volunteer for Helping Hands and we have taken on the role of calling patients for a friendly chat. Between us, we’re calling and supporting around 60 patients each week.

The patients we speak to really enjoy having a regular call from the hospice. We make sure we each speak to the same people each week, which means we get to know a bit more about them each time which is lovely. It also means we can pick up on if they might need any other support from Helping Hands, such as help with shopping or collecting prescriptions.

One patient Ella spoke to recently said that she felt able to chat with her about things that she didn’t feel comfortable talking about with her close family, so it feels like we’re making a valuable contribution by opening up conversations and providing comfort during this worrying time.

Often conversation might start off about the virus, but then before we know it, we’re talking and joking about all sorts of things – from what’s been on tv, to baking, gardening and vegetable growing tips! We’ve been told by patients that the call is a good distraction and how nice it is for them to be able to relax and have a laugh.

We’re really enjoying our new roles.”


“I’m a bank nurse. Usually I work mainly in the Day Hospice which is one of the services we’ve sadly had to close for now. So, now I’m working on the ward when the team need the extra support and I’m also volunteering for Helping Hands.

There are quite a few patients who don’t have close friends and family to help deliver essentials to them at home. I’m well, fit and able, and have a car, so with Helping Hands it’s nice to feel like I can do something extra to help.

Liz Hedges - Helping HandsI’ve just done my first shopping trip for a patient. Funnily enough, I knew her as she usually comes to the Day Hospice, so it was nice for both of us to see a familiar face. She lives three floors up in a flat, so she waved from her window and I left her shopping outside the door.

Being a nurse, I like to feel useful, which is why at my age I haven’t properly retired yet! I don’t enjoy sitting around and doing nothing.

Whether it’s volunteering or caring for patients in the hospice – the whole team are working their socks off and going the extra mile as far as we’re able to. For my fellow nurses, it has made the job much harder as the way that we work normally on the wards is very tactile and hands on. Instead, we’re behind gloves, aprons and masks and it’s tough not being able to hold someone’s hand or comfort relatives. This is never something I’d imagined we’d have to go through.”


“I’m a part time administrator in the Education Team at St Barnabas. Normally, we’re flat out running courses, but at the moment we can’t have anyone visiting the hospice for training. Whilst there are lots of jobs to catch up on and things to plan ahead for, it’s also meant that I can volunteer for Helping Hands during this quieter time.

Julie Maher - Helping HandsHelping Hands is such a good initiative for our patients who are self-isolating. It must be so difficult for them, particularly if they are on their own. I feel very lucky that I am well and that I can get out and help.

So far, I’ve helped collect and drop off prescriptions as well as doing shopping for people who aren’t able to leave their house. One lady I dropped some shopping round to recently was particularly pleased that I had managed to buy her some ice cream. I had always thought of ice cream as a treat, but she said she really needs it to help soothe her throat.

For many, it might be the first human contact they have had for a while, so although I might not be able to linger, I can at least smile and say hello.

So many people are affected by the situation and I think all the Helping Hands volunteers are enjoying the chance to be able to reach out and offer a hand where we can. Personally, I’ve found it really rewarding to step outside of my usual role and do something extra for the organisation and our local community.”

Please note that recruitment for ‘Helping Hands’ is currently only open to current members of staff.