Mealtime Assistants Volunteering Scheme

Author: Chris RandallDate: 4 months 3 weeks Ago

The hospital I currently work at (Barking Havering and Redbridge University NHS Trust) is re-launching its Mealtime Assistants Volunteering scheme, which originally began in 2016. The purpose of the scheme is to encourage staff to volunteer an hour a month to help out on our wards, as some of our more vulnerable patients may need that little bit of extra help to eat their meal, or even just someone to chat to which can brighten their day.

The timing of the relaunch has been fortuitous as it is that time of the year when, having got through another round of planning and year end (please point me to the bright individual who schedules financial planning and year end in the same window, a level of insanity that we will revisit in future blogs, I promise) and Performance Review time is upon us, a time when we consider how we best support/develop/nurture our teams and colleagues to deliver the challenging agenda in front of us all.

There are plenty of technical updates (yawn) to sign up for, interesting leadership development opportunities as well as softer skills development to consider, however one of the areas I have always found difficult is how we link the work we do in Corporate Services teams to patient care and from looking at our staff survey results, I am not the only one. In our team, 1 in 4 of us didn’t feel our role makes a difference to patients/service users. There is, at times, a physical and psychological disconnect between our teams and the frontline, which is bad for both moral and performance. An appreciation for the pressures that frontline staff face is essential for the teams that support them. At a previous Trust, I had spent some time working on one of the Mental Health adolescent inpatient wards and it had a profound and lasting effect on me, particularly as I had an adolescent son at the time. I had immediately introduced a scheme for various wards to “adopt” a member of the finance team, who would then spend time working with that service.

I happened to be in a meeting sitting with the Trust’s Head of Patient Experience and we were discussing the subject when she told me about the relaunch of the Mealtime Assistant Volunteering scheme and her desire to engage with the Corporate Services teams. Knowing a good thing when I see it, I immediately signed up and took the subject back into Finance. We are strongly encouraging managers to ensure that staff can free up an hour a month to go and work on the wards, as well as leading by example and engaging with the scheme directly themselves. By making it part of colleagues Personal Development Plans we can make it sustainable.

Its early days for sure, however we are currently up to over half a dozen recruits, and numbers are growing. A bit of training next and then we are off to the races.

If you’re organisation has a similar scheme I would strongly encourage you to join it and give it a go, you won’t regret it. If your organisation doesn’t have one, track down your Head of Patient Experience or PALS and find out why. Then introduce one yourselves, it’ll be worth the effort.

After all, it’s what we are all here for, isn’t it?