Volunteering Week 2020 at NHS Grampian

We have been overwhelmed in recent weeks, by the generosity shown by the people of Grampian, and by so many offers from those willing to volunteer their time, skills and passions to support health services during the pandemic. But did you know that NHS Grampian has a long standing and well established tradition of volunteering?

Each year, during Volunteers Week, NHS Grampian celebrates the contribution of volunteers, and shows appreciation for all of the wonderful acts of kindness. Getting together with volunteers is a really important part of Volunteers Week, thank you events are organised, hands are shaken, tea and cakes are shared, certificates are presented, and people are recognised for their commitment and enthusiasm.

There is in fact, such a longstanding tradition of volunteering in the organisation, that our volunteers are often presented with certificates that recognise extraordinary lengths of service. For example, this year a certificate will be awarded for an amazing 30 years of service at Woodend Hospital, which we definitely think is something worth celebrating.

However, just like everyone else during Covid-19, our volunteers have been asked to stay at home, which means that Volunteers Week 2020 will be very different from previous years. Nevertheless, NHS Grampian wants its volunteers to know that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and even though our volunteers can’t be with us right now, we continue to value, appreciate and celebrate all the fantastic contributions that they have made throughout the year.

Here are some of the things our local services are doing to say thank you to their volunteers during Volunteers Week 2020:

Roxburghe House

Roxburghe House is a specialist palliative care unit in Aberdeen which provides care for patients with a life limiting illness. The staff at Roxburge House are disappointed not to be able to organise their usual annual volunteer celebration event this year, so instead they are preparing certificates of appreciation, and to say ‘thank you’ and ‘we miss you’ they are also sending volunteers a newsletter with a handwritten card to ensure that all the volunteers, not just those using social media know how much they are missed.

Volunteer Coordinator at Roxburghe House, Mandy Urquhart said; “If we had been able to come together for our annual thank you event, we would have been celebrating a combined 740 years of service in our team. We are incredibly lucky to have some people that have volunteered with us for 10, 20, 30 and even 40 years, and that excludes those who gift their time to Friends of Roxburghe House.

“Mandy went on to say that “We remain optimistic that when the time is right and it is safe to do so, we will be able to find a way to get together as a group to celebrate, and to have certificates presented to our volunteers in person.”

Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH)

A small dedicated team of Play Volunteers work alongside staff at the Aberdeen Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH). The team at RCH share the same disappointment as other services, as their volunteer programme has also been required to be on hold during the pandemic. But Play Coordinator, Heather Beattie is determined to let volunteers know how much they are valued; “We are sending all our volunteers cards that the children have made along with certificates of appreciation, and once it is safe to do so we plan to hold a social distancing tea party for our wonderful volunteers, so we can say thank you in person for all that they do for us.”

Woodend Hospital

A diverse range of volunteers help to make a difference to the experience of patients receiving care at Woodend Hospital. Every year, the team host a special annual ‘thank you’ event during Volunteers Week, however, this year, the celebrations have been put on hold.

Instead, this year Volunteer Coordinator, Fiona Thomson will be sending a letter of thanks to all of the Woodend Hospital volunteers. In addition, Fiona has arranged for some special certificates signed by NHS Grampian Chair, Dr Lynda Lynch, including an extra special certificate for one volunteer who has completed an amazing 30 years of service.

Fiona said; “Michael Christie MBE has been volunteering for the NHS since 1990 following a very serious accident in 1988. Michael visits patients twice a week at Woodend Hospital and is also a Committee member of the Friends of Woodend. From Michael’s own experience as a hospital patient he is aware of how much patients look forward to visits. Michael always comes in with a cheery smile and the patients look forward to his visits and his friendly company. In the New Year’s Honour’s list in 1999 Michael was awarded an MBE for his dedicated service as volunteer to NHS Grampian.”

The Oaks

The Oaks in Elgin is a specialist Palliative Care Unit which provides care for people in Moray with cancer and non-malignant conditions.  The unit is currently being used by the COVID Response Team, and The Oaks have been required to pause all volunteering activities.  Volunteer Coordinator, Angela Stewart said that; “The Oaks has been open for 17 years, and some of my volunteers have been with us since the unit opened.”

During the pandemic, 24 people who volunteer at The Oaks, who are not considered to be at risk, have gone on to volunteer in the local community, helping with shopping, prescriptions, delivering meals, dog walking and making phone calls to those who are shielding and self-isolating. 

In the meanwhile, Angela keeps in regular contact by telephone with her volunteers, and will be phoning them all to say thank you, and let them know that she looks forward to a time when she is able to welcome each of them back.

Dr Grays

At the start of the pandemic Dr Gray’s Hospital recruited and welcomed 65 new volunteers to support us at the entry and exit points of the hospital.  Our volunteers have worked extremely hard being on duty for 2 hour stints from 7am till 9pm at night, 7 days a week, and it’s unbelievable that they have maintained this for 9 weeks now.

The volunteers have supported us with many aspects of additional hospital activity during the current situation.  Not just as the sentries, but also ensuring a high level of hand gelling, checking ID at entrances and taking goods from relatives to be delivered to the wards.  They have washed and cleaned pool cars, supported International Nurses day by setting up displays and assisted with the collection of comfort boxes and other donations to name but a few.  One volunteer has even taken over the maintenance of the flower boxes at the old front door which we had put in place for Princess Anne’s’ visit last year and have been sadly neglected. 

​The support from the volunteers has been outstanding. They rose to the challenge and we are indebted to local businesses (and others) who very quickly provided references for their furloughed staff which allowed them to start volunteering for us.  

Each volunteer has received a Dr Gray’s special 200 year anniversary box of Walkers shortbread and during volunteer week each one will receive a certificate of thanks from the Hospital manager.  We are delighted announce that nine of the volunteers have successfully complete the application process, and will continue to volunteer with us after the crisis is resolved.

We have involved all of the volunteers in the ‘Clap for Hero’s’ each Thursday night and it goes without saying that we could not have done this without them, as our volunteers are recognised as a valuable part of the NHS Family

The Public Involvement Team

The Public Involvement Network (PIN) is made up of a committed and dedicated team of Public Representatives who volunteer their time, skills and experience to ensure the patient experience is at the heart of service design and delivery.

Public Involvement Manager, and Volunteer Lead for NHS Grampian, Louise Ballantyne said; “We are very disappointed that we have to put our thank you events and Volunteer Week celebrations on hold this year, however we want to let all our volunteers know that we are thinking of them and look forward to a time when NHS Grampian can once again be an active and thriving hub of volunteering in the north east of Scotland.”  

This year, the Public Involvement Team are reaching out to their PIN Members with thank you letters and with certificates of appreciation signed by Louise. 

For further information…

If you would like to be kept up to date with news and information, including details about future volunteer recruitment, please contact the Public Involvement Team by emailing nhsg.involve@nhs.net who will be delighted to help you.