Our Founder’s Vision
Sir Tom Hughes-Hallett
Helpforce was founded by Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett, a philanthropist and health leader. He was previously Chief Executive of Marie Curie where volunteers are the beating heart of the organisation. Now as Chair of Chelsea & Westminster hospital, and ‘Chair of Chairs’ of all NHS teaching hospitals, Tom sees the opportunity to build a national programme to promote the role and value of volunteering within hospitals, and deliver volunteer-centred innovation and improvement across the UK.
Read our story in his words below.
Imagine a time when you are a frequent visitor to hospital.
Your health isn’t what it was. You’re frustrated by needing support to overcome some of your physical shortcomings. Your children aren’t always able to help with your breathlessness and arthritis. Visits to hospital are alarming. The appointments system is baffling, transport is often late and finding your way around is hard.
Finally, a doctor sees you but it’s all over very quickly and you don’t know what he meant by a ‘pulmonary embolism’. It’s lonely going back into the discharge lounge and waiting for the ambulance. Your niece rings to say she can’t be at home to meet you. The following week, you wake up breathless in the middle of the night so dial 999. The ambulance crew arrive quickly and are kind. They say they must take you into hospital as there is no one at home to support you.
Now, frustratingly, you feel fine, thinking “why did I call 999?” Over the next two weeks in hospital, you long to go home. You’re stuck in bed and no one comes to visit. The nurse says you’re becoming weaker through lack of exercise, but everyone is too busy to be able to walk you around and you don’t like to ask. Finally, it’s time to go home. You’re very nervous, feel weak and there won’t be any milk or food for you at home.
This is not an untypical tale for our increasingly elderly population at a time of staff shortages and ever increasing demand for care. To help address these issues, Helpforce is a new social movement using the power of volunteering to improve the health and wellbeing of people across the UK. We believe that volunteers can really help healthcare professionals and community organisations meet the diverse care and support needs of patients. We understand the pressure the NHS is under and want the benefits of volunteering to be supported as a strategic priority. We will help ensure that vulnerable patients are guided through their healthcare journey by a safe and reliable volunteer. We will share with the state the responsibility for the health and wellbeing of our neighbours, families and friends.
Helpforce envisages a time when you will never be alone on a hospital visit. A volunteer will pick you up and take you to your appointment. They will stay with you, explain what the treatment involves and take you home afterwards and remain a companion on your journey. When you call 999, the fully-trained paramedic will be accompanied by a safe and reliable volunteer. If all you needed was to be checked and reassured, the volunteer will stay with you until you feel better, relieving the feeling that you called an ambulance which somebody else needed more urgently. If you have to stay in hospital, a trained volunteer will help keep you active and mobile, so you can go home quicker. And volunteers will help ensure you leave hospital with the right prescriptions and support.
Helpforce is a social movement combining compassion, friendship and communities for the benefit of us all. We know that volunteering is good for the people being supported, health and social care services, charities, the volunteers themselves and the community as whole. We want to see a recognisable improvement in the range and quality of volunteer roles available to support patient care.