It’s Volunteers’ Week 1-7 June, so Healthwatch Somerset is sending a huge ‘Thank You’ to the inspiring volunteers who help to make health and social care better for local people.

Over 40 volunteers currently support the work of Healthwatch Somerset, making an important contribution to improving people’s experience of health and care in the county.

Volunteers help in a variety of ways, depending on their interests and the time they have available.  They gather people’s experiences and views of health and social care, they compile research to inform special projects, they visit services to make sure they are providing the right care and support, and they promote the work of Healthwatch.  The Healthwatch Readers Panel reviews and edits publications for local organisations to make sure they are easy to understand and helpful to members of the public, and members of the Healthwatch Board are also volunteers.  Meet some Healthwatch volunteers below.

Hannah Gray, Healthwatch Somerset Manager said: “We recognise the enormous value of our volunteers every single day.  They help us reach out and connect with so many people and communities across the county, encouraging them to get involved and finding out what matters to them, so that we can build closer relationships between health and social care services and the communities they serve.  I want to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to our volunteers and to highlight the significant role they play in promoting patient engagement to help improve the quality of care.”

Healthwatch Somerset Volunteer Officer, Sheila Burridge, works closely with the volunteers, coordinating and supporting their work.  She said: “Volunteers are at the heart of everything we do, they make such a difference.  I want to say a huge thank you to all of our volunteers for their continued support, hard work and enthusiasm, they are inspiring.  Although much of our volunteering usually takes place out and about in the community, it has been rewarding to adapt our work during coronavirus to provide befriending support to local people who are alone and isolated.”

Healthwatch Somerset works with volunteers of all ages and backgrounds, supporting them with training and development and out of pocket expenses.  They are keen to recruit new volunteers, particularly people who live in South Somerset and Yeovil areas.

To find out more about volunteering with Healthwatch Somerset call: 01278 264405, or email, or visit the Healthwatch Somerset website.

Anne knows voluntering makes a difference to the quality of care

Anne retired three years ago after a long career in early years teaching and development.  She started volunteering with Healthwatch Somerset in 2019, holding regular drop-in sessions in local libraries.  She has since supported the Enter and View inspection programme, visiting health and social care premises to speak to people using the services, and she recently became a local Board member for Healthwatch Somerset.

“I have been on a steep learning curve as I had no prior knowledge of the NHS, but the training and support has been excellent.  I’ve seen the real difference we can make to the quality of health and care services by listening and reporting on people’s experiences.”

Rena wants to help young people to speak up

Volunteer Board Member Rena wants to give young people the chance to share their views to help shape the future of health and care services in Somerset.  She wants to use her many years’ experience working in education, and as a mother of three and grandmother of five, to develop Healthwatch’s work with young people.

“Each of us will use health and social care services at some point in our lives.  Healthwatch ensures that the views of local people are used to help shape those services.  I want to make a difference, so I decided to volunteer.  It gives me the chance to use my skills gained in education, and I am looking forward to developing Healthwatch with younger people in Somerset.”

Christine is a good listener

Christine is retired and lives in Taunton.  She is a trained bereavement counsellor.  She enjoys talking to people and is a good listener.  Volunteering with Healthwatch Somerset gives her plenty of opportunities to talk to people about their experiences of local health and social care services, to help influence positive change.  She is currently supporting isolated people through befriending calls.

Wendy cares about local services

Wendy lives in the coastal village of Porlock.  She is passionate about health and care services in West Somerset, particularly the Ambulance Service and Minehead Hospital, and she is a member of her GP surgery’s patient group.  Wendy is one of Healthwatch Somerset’s local community volunteers, reporting back on issues that affect access to health and care for people in her local area.