Transforming the patient experience

26th May 2018

“Mobility volunteers can play a transformative role in the lives of older patients by helping to reduce frailty in hospital. Volunteering in this area not only adds years to life but most importantly quality to those extra years” says Dr Allison Smith, Head of Strategy and Development, Royal Voluntary Service, and Helpforce advisor.

Inactivity is detrimental for older patients and is costly for the NHS – 5% of muscle strength is lost for every day an older adult spends in hospital. This is a significant concern given that the average length of stay is 11.9 days – equating to a loss of 60% of muscle strength.

Frailty need not be an inevitable part of an older patient’s stay in hospital; there is a growing and compelling body of evidence which tells us that mobilising older patients – particularly with a focus on resistance-based exercise can help build muscle strength. That is why Royal Voluntary Service and Helpforce are so passionate about this high impact volunteering role.With specialist training, volunteers can play a transformative role in the lives of older patients, particularly where physiotherapists might not have the capacity to see patients frequently.

Volunteers can bring a ‘non-clinical’ flavour through use of music, equipment (e.g. balls, bands) to build a more entertaining and social environment from which to engage patients. At University Hospital Morecambe Bay (UHMB) volunteers provide daily one to one support or group chair-based resistance exercise. Volunteers also help prepare patients for discharge by setting ‘fun and achievable exercises’ to take home. I have seen the transformational impact that volunteering in this area has on the lives of older people – our research evidence finds – improvements in physical function, increases in happiness and reduction in feelings of anxiety and loneliness.