Pictured left to right: Joan Stothard, Craig Schofield, Michael Bell, Megan Mclusky and Hannah Hunter.

Ambulance service's volunteer army extends to Gateshead

New porters welcomed at Queen Elizabeth Hospital

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) NHS Foundation Trust is extending its volunteering porter service to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead.

The Trust transports thousands of patients to and from the hospital every year and the introduction of volunteer porters there will give patients more support to get to and from their appointments.

Alongside it’s emergency care service, NEAS helped more than three quarters of a million patients get to and from North East hospitals last year with help from its Patient Transport Service and 170 volunteer ambulance car drivers.

At four other North East hospitals, over 50 people already volunteer as porters with the service.  It is their role to meet NEAS crews arriving at hospitals with patients heading to appointments or home. 

Last year they helped nearly 4000 patients, saving crews nearly 250 hours so that they could be back on the road headed to their next patient, completing over 5,500 shifts – more than 27,500 hours. 

A team of six volunteer porters will begin working at the hospital this week, Monday to Friday, between 8.30am and 5pm.

NEAS Business improvement manager Bev Smith, who oversees volunteering with the Trust, said “We works with over 300 volunteers that support our hundreds of thousands of patients.  Volunteers give their time as porters, ambulance car service drivers, community first responders and Governors, investing thousands of hours in the service every year – unpaid and in their own time. 

“With the support of this army of volunteers, we are able to ensure we target our resources as effectively as possible and still give patients the support they need.  Trips to and from hospital can be very daunting for some and help along the way, to navigate the hospitals, book in for appointments and have the reassurance of a friendly face can make all the difference, giving patients a seamless and much more positive experience.” 

Joining the team at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital are the following volunteers:

28-year old Megan Mclusky from Hebburn joined the volunteer porter programme last month.  Megan works at Asda and is studying health and social care at Sunderland University.  She said, "I wanted some hospital and health care experience and this is a brilliant place to start. The other guys are brilliant to work with."

New volunteer porter Hannah Hunter, aged 18 from Blaydon, is currently on a gap year having recently completed a course in uniformed public services.  Hannah aspires to be a paramedic or a nurse and was looking for a foot in door of public services when she saw the opportunity.

Sunderland resident Joan Stothard has had time on her hands and wanted to do something that appealed to her, having now retired from hospital clerical work. 

She said "The idea of being a porter seemed a good way to both get exercise and meet people – I had been looking for an opportunity for a while but not found the right thing for me until this."

Sixty-one year old Mick Bell from Gateshead is now volunteering as a porter one day a week, having retired from the automotive industry two years ago.  He said, "I have found myself wanting something to do; I was getting bored. I've actually always fancied being a porter – I just wanted to have a go. I’m really enjoying it  there's always something that makes your day. I enjoy meeting the regulars and people are so cheerful and grateful for the help.  We’re able to give patients a friendly face when they arrive at hospital and help to settle them in."

34-year old Craig Schofield from Ouston found the opportunity when looking for new experiences that could support him back to work.  He said, “My dad works at the ambulance service and suggested the scheme and a great place where I could get new experiences in a new environment.”

Earlier this year QE Gateshead also launched a major recruitment drive for new volunteers to help out at the hospital called “It’s for Everyone”. 

Judith Portlock, Volunteer Co-ordinator at the QE, says: "Volunteers play a pivotal role in enhancing the experience of patients and visitors to QE Gateshead and we greatly appreciate the enormous contribution they make. Our volunteers come from all walks of life and volunteer for many different reasons. We’re thankful for any time you can commit to supporting your local NHS and help to enhance each patient’s experience at the QE Hospital."

If you’d like to learn more skills, get more involved with your local community and improve your career options, volunteering at NEAS might be for you. 

If you’re interested in volunteering with the service as a porter, visit: /get-involved/volunteering-opportunities.aspx or email: porters@neas.nhs.uk.

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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