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A single bleep helps volunteers make a real difference at top London hospital

02 March 2018

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital has launched a new ‘Bleep’ volunteering programme enabling volunteers to make an ever bigger difference by channelling their assistance to where it’s needed most, when it is needed most. The initiative means hospital staff can ‘bleep’ volunteers to help them in real time, so they can provide efficient assistance across the hospital, and make a direct, positive impact to patients and staff.

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital has launched a new ‘Bleep’ volunteering programme enabling volunteers to make an ever bigger difference by channelling their assistance to where it’s needed most, when it is needed most. 

The initiative means hospital staff can ‘bleep’ volunteers to help them in real time, so they can provide efficient assistance across the hospital, and make a direct, positive impact to patients and staff. 

A key focus for the volunteers is helping nursing and pharmacy teams with discharging patients as soon as possible by delivering specific medication to wards when needed for a patient who is ready to go home. This allows nurses to stay on their busy wards, while also getting patients their take-home medication in a timely manner. Not only does it improve things for staff and patients alike, but also contributes to the overall running of the hospital. 

The Trust’s volunteer coordinator, Rachael Allsop, explained how the new initiative is helping: “We’re able to respond to requests quickly and do some of the little things around the hospital that make a big difference. It’s been incredibly inspiring to walk on to a ward with the pharmacy supplies they need, and seeing just how much this helps the nurses – and on the whole makes things more efficient for staff and patients.” 

“To give another example, we came across a patient who was feeling unwell and a little overwhelmed. We saw that she needed an extra hand, so we supported her getting to clinic, and then to pharmacy, before into a taxi home. It was really heart-warming to provide such practical, hands-on support,” Rachael said. 

“We are so grateful for the kindness and generosity of our volunteers. A small gesture can mean a lot to people when they’re unwell – and I’d really encourage people to get involved and see how rewarding it is,” Rachael said. 

Leticia Corominas, an aspiring dietician, and Imraj Singh, an aeronautical engineering student, were two of the first to volunteer as part of the new programme and said the experience was incredibly positive. 

Leticia said: "By volunteering I can help improve the patients’ experience at the hospital and play a part in making sure they receive the high-quality care that the NHS is committed to providing. The bleep volunteer service is gratifying and dynamic as each day presents new situations where we get to interact with patients from all parts of the hospital. It also allows you to interact with health care professionals and understand the importance of compassion and respect when helping both outpatients and inpatients." 

Imraj said: “From my point of view, it has given me a unique and insightful perspective into the hospital. Our duties do not only lie with individual wards, but with the interfaces between them too. Streamlining processes and dealing with the little frustrations which health care providers would otherwise have to. This alleviates pressure and improves patient care. There are also opportunities to directly improve patient experience, and you really feel appreciated. I urge anyone interested in experiencing a hospital environment and making a difference to apply. It’s a fantastic opportunity." 

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is one of five pilot trusts to kick off this HelpForce project aimed at making volunteering an integral part of healthcare. Supported by NHS England, HelpForce is working with 12 trusts across the country to improve volunteering practice and make a positive difference for patients, volunteers and NHS staff. 

Hospital staff can ‘bleep’ volunteers by calling 52424 and asking for support. The team on the ground will then be contacted and directed accordingly. 

The programme has launched with small teams of two volunteers helping at any one time. The Trust will monitor how it’s working at this early stage and expand as needed.