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Launch of major health volunteering project in county

Some of the young people who are volunteering with Northumbria Healthcare as part of the national HelpForce project. Picture by Gavin Duthie.
Some of the young people who are volunteering with Northumbria Healthcare as part of the national HelpForce project. Picture by Gavin Duthie.

A new national drive to boost volunteering across the NHS has been launched with young people in Northumberland.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is the first of five pilot trusts to kick-off its HelpForce project, which has the aim of improving patients’ experiences in hospitals.

Supported by NHS England, HelpForce is a Community Interest Company working with 12 trusts across the country. It wants to enable volunteers to play a greater role in supporting NHS staff so that staff can focus more time on providing expert medical care.

Northumbria Healthcare is initially focussing on youth volunteering and has recruited 28 young people. The pupils from St Benet Biscop Catholic Academy in Bedlington and King Edward VI School in Morpeth will volunteer on wards at The Northumbria hospital and Wansbeck General Hospital.

They will work in pairs to facilitate activities to increase social interaction. They will not take on the duties of paid staff.

KEVI student Ethan Mackey, from Ashington, has some knowledge of what it is like to be a NHS employee as his mum Jo works in the operating department at The Northumbria.

The 16-year-old said: “I’ve always wanted to work in healthcare and to be able to find out what it’s like to be a hospital environment and interact with patients will be a fantastic opportunity.”

Brenda Longstaff, head of charity development and volunteering at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Young people have an incredible amount to offer society and as a trust we’re passionate about opening up opportunities to help them develop and gain an insight into life in the NHS.

“Working alongside our existing volunteers, the youngsters will play a valuable role spending time with patients to improve their experiences of being in hospital.”