Hampstead charity calls for volunteers to help elderly patients home after difficult stints in hospital

Fran Gertler, head of integrated care at the Royal Free Hospital, and Andre Knirsch, Royal Voluntary

Fran Gertler, head of integrated care at the Royal Free Hospital, and Andre Knirsch, Royal Voluntary Service area manager. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

An older people’s charity has called on local residents to uphold the spirit of the London Olympics and volunteer for a new service that helps elderly patients at the Royal Free Hospital readjust to life at home.

The Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) – established as the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service in 1938 – has seen an increase in the number of volunteers nationwide since last summer’s Games and has recently expanded its coverage to north London.

The organisation is now encouraging people to get involved with the Home from Hospital programme, which helps elderly patients readjust to life at home after difficult stints in hospital.

The programme was rolled out by the RVS at the Pond Street hospital in May.

André Knirsch, RVS area manager, said: “The Olympics had a very good impact for us. We have had more inquiries from more volunteers as an effect of the Games.

“People have been looking for more opportunities to get involved and we want to remind people of this spirit of volunteering.”

The service is designed as a link for people who are still recovering from an accident or illness, with the intention of boosting their mental and physical health to reduce unnecessary readmission to hospital.

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‘‘We have had a very good response so far from people in Camden but we obviously want to help more people and so need more volunteers,” said Mr Knirsch, 44.

“We’ve had great feedback from the hospital staff, as well as case studies of people who have remained at home rather than going back to hospital or seeking expensive care arrangements, such as care homes.”

Volunteers are asked to carry out a range of tasks for as little as two hours per week, including making sure patients have a healthy meal, taking them to GP appointments or picking up shopping. “It is essentially a ‘good neighbours’ role, looking after somebody and making sure they have everything they need at home, so that they don’t fall back into illness,” said Mr Knirsch.

“It’s very flexible. Often older people are just in need of somebody to come round and make sure they are OK.”

The Royal Voluntary Service, which supports more than 100,000 older people in Britain each month, is seeking to recruit volunteers of all ages.

* For more information call 0845 601 4670 or visit www.wrvs.org.uk to register to volunteer.