A new campaign has been launched to recruit volunteers to help shape local health and care services in Gloucestershire.
The county’s independent health and care champion – Healthwatch Gloucestershire – is looking for people from all backgrounds to join its voluntary programme to help make a real difference to the way health services are run locally.
Retired headteacher and current volunteer Brian Henry from Highnam near Gloucester (pictured) has been a volunteer with Healthwatch Gloucestershire for the last three years and is encouraging others to join him in his role.
75-year-old Brian said: “Volunteering is a great way to keep active, keep your mind focused and helps you feel good about yourself as you are helping others. By volunteering with Healthwatch Gloucestershire I can help people who may have problems with local health or care services or simply don’t know what to do about a particular problem.
“I can either point them in the right direction or raise their concern with Healthwatch who can then gather this feedback and raise any issues with the organisations which plan and pay for health and care services.”
Originally from South Yorkshire, widower Brian worked as a deputy headteacher for St Peter’s High School in Gloucester for more than 20 years. When he retired he took up voluntary roles to keep active and joined Healthwatch Gloucestershire in 2014.
Brian has volunteered on stands at community events to listen to the experiences of people. Brian continued: “At one event I met a woman from the Chinese community. She said her father had a pacemaker fitted at a hospital in Birmingham but he had moved to Gloucestershire, yet he was still travelling to the Midlands for appointments.
“With my Healthwatch Gloucestershire hat on, I was able to signpost to local health bodies and as a result her father was transferred.”
Healthwatch Gloucestershire, the county’s independent health and care champion, has launched the campaign to recruit more volunteers to help its small staff team gather feedback from the public.
A wide variety of volunteering roles are on offer. People can visit health and care venues to speak to patients, staff and families about their experiences and also act as an ambassador for the organisation at local events and meetings.
Volunteers listen to a range of issues, both good and bad. Brian said: “As people get older they can have more health problems. I have friends who need hip or knee replacements and sometimes they need extra support or advice about the local health services they use. It’s important they have somewhere they can feed back their experiences, so ultimately the services can be improved.”
Kay Bunyan, Volunteer Officer at Healthwatch Gloucestershire said: “Volunteers like Brian are at the heart of everything we do, from talking to people about their experiences of local health and care services, to sitting on the local steering group.
“Whatever your background, we are keen to hear from you if you think you could fill one of these roles. People can make a real difference to their communities and help to shape their local health and care services.”
All volunteers with Healthwatch Gloucestershire go through a full training and personal development programme. They are given a comprehensive volunteer handbook and welcome pack, as well as having access to an online volunteer portal with up to date policies and procedures. Out of pocket expenses are also reimbursed.