Nhs_choices Bthft Bradford Teaching HospitalsNHS Foundation Trust NHS Choices
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What can volunteers do?


People visit the hospital for many reasons. It may be that they are coming into hospital for an operation, for investigations or to visit a friend of family member. They may be a new member of staff, or someone else who has never been to the hospital before. Whatever the reason, hospitals can be a little bit daunting and confusing. Our volunteer guides are always ready with a smile and a friendly face and happy to help people find their way around. They often work closely with reception staff and like to help them out too. At BTH there guiding roles in the ENT/Eye Out-patient Departments (OPD), in Orthopaedic OPD, in Maternity/Gynaecology OPD at BRI, in the Phlebotomy OPD at SLH and in the main entrances of both out hospitals. Shift times are from 9am until 12 noon or from 1pm until 4pm, Monday to Friday. Volunteer guides will need to have good communication skills. They will also need to be able to stand for quite a while and to be able to walk long distances.

Tea-bar Helpers

There are two tea-bars at SLH in the Horton Wing OPd and the Welcome Cuppa which is attached to the Extension block. There are three Tea-bars at BRI, in ENT/Eye OPD, in Orthopaedic OPD and in the Maternity Unit. All our tea-bars provide a much needed service to our staff, patients and visitors. We sell, sandwiches, hot and cold drinks, toast, crisps, cakes and other confectionery. We currently enjoy a 5 star rating from the Department of Environmental Health. All the money that is raised through the tea-bars is used to improve patient care through the purchase of items such as equipment and soft furnishings. All our products are pre-packed, with the exception of toast and hot drinks, so there's no cooking involved. The tills we use are designed for ease of use and include a bar-code scanner. Most of our products will have a bar code on them. For those that don't, there are individual buttons which are easy to recognise. As most of our tea-bars are situated in or near OPD areas, it is easy to get to know the customers and build up a friendly rapport with them. Tea-bar helpers work in pairs, so you will always be working with another person. Our tea-bars are currently open from 9am until 4pm, Monday to Friday. Shift times are from 08.45 am until 1pm and from 1 pm until 4.15 pm. Tea-bar helpers will need to have good communication skills. They will also need to be able to stand for quite a while and enjoy being kept busy!

Nutritional Support Assistants and Patient Support Roles

Good nutrition is vital to any patient's recovery. Most people will be able to relate to loosing their appetite if they feel unwell. Staff at BTH always monitor nutritional intake closely and do all they can to make sure that healthy and appetising meals are made available. Nutritional Support Assistants however, are ready with a helping hand to assist those patients who need more support with eating and drinking. They can provide a friendly and sociable experience at meal times, which encourages people to eat and drink, when they might otherwise have found it too much of an effort. Volunteers can also prepare and clear away bedside tables, offer hand wash wipes, serve hot and cold food and drink, open containers and wrappers, chat to patients and generally offer support. Volunteers may be asked to escort patients to other departments, to keep them company until they return to the ward. Staff may also ask volunteers to do other tasks that will help with the smooth running of the ward and to improve the experience of our patients. Wards are open 24 hours each day. Shift times are from 10am until 1pm and from 4pm until 6pm. Nutritional Support Assistants will need to have good communication skills and will need to be able to stand for quite a while and walk short distances.

Hospital Radio Volunteers

There is a hospital radio broadcasting service at both hospitals “ Radio Royal at BRI and St Luke's Sound Radio at SLH. Hospital radio volunteers will receive training on how to use the equipment in the studio and how to broadcast a radio show. For those who are good enough, they will be given a regular slot and will be able to broadcast their own show to the patient's bedside. At SLH, the service has been extended to the OPD areas. At BRI, the service is linked with the ˜Patientline' system. Radio volunteers also go onto the ward to chat to patients and to take any requests for music tracks that the patient's may wish to listen to. The hospital radio service is provided over 24 hours, each day, but shift times vary and usually fall during the day or during an evening, including weekends. Radio volunteers often work in pairs but may work alone in the studio, from time to time. Radio volunteers also need to have good communication skills, feel comfortable with chatting along and have a sense of fun!

Activity Volunteers - Elderly Care

Often, when older people are in hospital, the days can be long and sometimes a little isolated or lonely. Not everyone has the luxury of having lots of visitors. Our Activity Assistants can help by befriending patients and doing various activities and past times with them. Activities include board games, reading, helping to write letters, jigsaws, to name a few. Shift times vary from ward to ward and will depend on the usual routine, working around meal times and doctors rounds etc. Activity Assistants will need to have good communication skills, patience and understanding.

Play Assistants - ENT/Eye OPD, Paediatric Wards (BRI) and Paediatric OPD (SLH)

The ENT/Eye OPD at BRI and the Paediatric OPD at SLH have dedicated Paediatric Clinics. Children usually don't like waiting very long and often become fractious and irritable when they are waiting to go into the clinic to see the doctor. Our Play Assistants help to keep the children occupied whilst they are waiting. They play games, help the children to draw and colour pictures and read stories. According to members of staff, the children are noticeably more cooperative when they have been kept occupied in this way and this has resulted in much more accurate tests and less stressful consultations. Shift times are from 9am until 12 noon and from 1pm until 4pm on various weekdays.

The Paediatric Wards at BRI need similar support from Play Assistants to help occupy the children during their stay in hospital. Children often feel unwell whilst they are in hospital, but they can be very resilient and soon ˜bounce' back! Play has been proven to be therapeutic and helps speed recovery. This work is challenging but very rewarding. Play Assistants on the wards offer group and one to one play with children. They will work closely with the Play Specialist and other members of staff. Shift times on the wards are 08.30 am “ 12.30 am, 1pm “ 4pm and 4pm “ 7pm and support is needed every day of the week, including weekends. 

The ability to work with children, often seated lower down at their level, is required.  It can get quite chaotic so Play Assistants need to have lots of patience and relate well to children!

Ward Trolley Services

The Ward Trolley Service is a new service which will go out to the wards at Bradford Royal Infirmary. The new service will provide a much needed personal service to our patients, visitors and staff offering the sale of cold drinks, crisps and other confectionery and possibly newspapers and magazines. All funds that are raised through the ward trolley service will be used to improve patient care. Training will be given to use the tills, which are designed for ease of use and include a bar-code scanner. Most of our products will have a bar code on them. For those that don't, there are individual buttons which are easy to recognise. Regular visits to the ward will make it easy to get to know the customers and build up a friendly rapport with them. Ward Trolley volunteers will work in pairs, so you will always be working with another person. Our trolley service will initially run from 2 pm until 4 pm, Monday to Friday. Shift times may be extended to cover the mornings and weekends once the service is well established. The chosen route taken is designed to avoid meal times and doctors ward rounds. Ward Trolley volunteers will need to have good communication skills and be able to handle cash. They will also need to be physically fit enough to push a trolley around the various wards in the hospital and enjoy being kept busy!

For those who prefer lighter trolley duties, there is a smaller ward trolley service that goes around the wards and departments selling toiletries, second hand books, stationery, knitted goods and craft work and various fun novelties. This smaller ward trolley is currently taken round on a weekday, usually in an afternoon between 1 pm and 4.30 pm. Volunteers delivering this service need to have good communication skills and to be good at handling of cash, although no till is involved. Whilst this trolley is smaller and lighter, volunteers will still need to be able to push a trolley full of stock around the various wards.


Many of our volunteers like to help through raising funds for the hospitals. The Friends of St Luke's and the Friends of Bradford Royal Infirmary often have fundraising projects throughout the year including raffles, table top sales, cake stalls, craft stalls and charity fairs.

Home knitting and craft work

There are some of our volunteers who are not able to get into the hospital on a regular basis, either owing to illness, limited mobility or simply because they have too many other commitments. They are still able to help though, in the form of home knitting, hand made cards and other craft work. These items are then sold to help raise funds for the hospitals. Some volunteers prefer baking cakes and other goodies for our table top sales. Everyone looks forward to those!

Students and other young people under 25 years

All 17 to 24 year olds are welcome to apply to become a volunteer at BTH. Most young people apply to become a volunteer because they have an interest in working within healthcare. This may include considering going into medicine, nursing, physiotherapy or within one of the many non-clinical support roles such as porters or catering assistants. Whilst, it is not possible to volunteer in all of these areas, our Nutritional Support Assistant Scheme will provide a good introduction for what it might be like to work in a hospital setting, and volunteers will be able to relate much of their volunteer experience to their chosen career. Other volunteer roles that will be beneficial to students and other young people under 25 years include Hospital Radio (particularly if the interest is in media). Volunteering within the Guiding Services is also a good way to improve the knowledge of hospital and NHS services and to build upon communication skills.

We ask our young volunteers to commit themselves to volunteer with us for a minimum of six months. We provide the necessary training and support and view our young volunteers as the workforce of the future. Usual practice involves coming in to volunteer once a week for 2-3 hours, on the same day and at the same time each week. The day and time is decided mutually and will be dependent on when the volunteer is free and where the vacancies are.

There are two intakes each year for our students and other young volunteers. Recruitment begins three to four months prior to starting volunteer placements, as the screening system and training is completed in advance. Each year, we recruit in June with a view to starting volunteer placements in November and recruit again in January, with a view to starting volunteer placements in June.

Once you have completed a placement, references may be provided on request, including a record of attendance and a description of the volunteer role that has been undertaken.

BTH has a 50 hours award, which is warded to those volunteers who complete 50 hours or more during their placement as a volunteer.

Volunteering for people aged 25 years and over

People aged 25 years and over tend to be the volunteers who stay with us on a long term basis (i.e. for over 12 months). Mature volunteers are the foundation upon which we have built our Voluntary Service and they derive from a diverse community, bringing a wealth of knowledge and skills along with them. Our volunteers provide an integral service, which supports and enhances the delivery of patient care across the Foundation Trust. Volunteers in this age group, may apply for any of the volunteer roles available, providing they are fit and well enough to undertake the role they have chosen.