How volunteers “Make a Difference” at our hospitals

Sam Morris is head of volunteering at Imperial Health Charity, which manages a growing community of dedicated volunteers across Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. To celebrate Volunteers’ Week 2018, he reflects on the huge contribution that volunteers make to improving the hospital experience for our patients, staff and visitors.

This week sees the whole country come together to celebrate the thousands of volunteers who generously give their time to support charitable causes. Here at Imperial we are no different as we take the opportunity to recognise and thank the hundreds of volunteers who support our hospitals every day.

Between April 2017 and March this year, a total of 249 volunteers contributed over 25,500 hours to our hospitals. Since April 2017 we have appointed 111 brand new volunteers to roles within the Trust, not including several existing volunteers who have taken on new or additional roles with us.

So, how does volunteering at the Trust work? Our focus is on developing volunteer roles where individuals can directly help patients during their time in our hospitals. We work with Trust teams to create the right volunteer roles and then recruit the right people to fill them. (Patients and the public give their time in other ways too, such as helping with improvement projects or feeding back on information leaflets, and this is managed separately, directly by the Trust.)

Volunteering is all about how those who want to give up their time to help can add value to the work of the Trust. We don’t believe in appointing volunteers to roles which should really be carried out by paid members of staff, such as out of hours receptionists or administrators. We believe in the power of offering patients more interaction with other people.

Over the last 12 months we have developed the volunteering programme to align it with sector best practice and are working towards achieving Investing in Volunteers, the UK quality standard for good practice in volunteer management. We have introduced a new volunteering policy to underpin everything that we do, overhauled the way we deliver core skills training to volunteers and introduced a new uniform for volunteers to help identify them and value their contribution. You may have spotted some of them in their distinctive purple tops with green charity lanyards! In the last few months, we have also introduced four new volunteering awards, as part of the Trust’s Make a Difference awards programme for Trust staff to recognise volunteers who embody the Trust’s four values: kind, collaborative, aspirational and expert.

Looking ahead, we are due to roll out core training refresher courses to our existing volunteers, alongside the launch of our new youth volunteering programme at Hammersmith Hospital, which starts in July and is generously funded by the Pears Foundation as part of the #iwill campaign. We are also working with a number of teams across the Trust to recruit new volunteers within the hospitals. Among the teams we are working with are: main outpatients at St Mary’s Hospital; the fracture clinic; outpatients at Western Eye Hospital; gynaecology; ultrasound; IVF clinic; the dementia care team; ambulatory emergency care and discharge; elderly medicine; pain management; patient advice and liaison service (PALS); specialist neurological rehabilitation; infant feeding and more. We will also be appointing new mealtime support volunteers to six wards across the three largest hospital sites.

So how can you get involved? If you are a member of staff and you work with some of our amazing volunteers, why not consider nominating them for a Make a Difference Volunteering Award? If you are interested in engaging volunteers within your team, or if you are interested in volunteering with us, then get in touch to explore how we might be able to help during 2019/20.

Imperial Health Charity manages volunteering across the Trust. To find out more or apply to become a volunteer, call 020 3005 6391 or visit

To nominate a volunteer for a Make a Difference Volunteering Awards, visit

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