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Volunteers needed to expand social stimulation programme for older hospital patients 


Psychologists at Salisbury District Hospital are expanding their award-winning Engage programme and are looking for more volunteers to help provide social stimulation for older people in hospital.

The project has proved rewarding for volunteers and successful for patients and, as part of the new recruitment drive, the team want to give more people an opportunity to find out about Engage and speak to current volunteers through a choice of several information sessions at Salisbury District Hospital.

Salisbury District Hospital psychology co-ordinator, Tora Mathias-Jones, said: “All our volunteers find the work that they are doing with older patients very rewarding and this really is a marvellous opportunity for people who are interested in working with us to find out more about how they could help our patients.”

“Around 66% of patients in hospital are aged 65 or over and need some form of short or long term care. We know that older people can often lose independence when they come into hospital and develop psychological problems such as anxiety and depression. More stimulation and social interaction can help to alleviate some of the problems that older people could face when they suddenly find themselves in an unfamiliar environment and our research suggests that the work of our volunteers can help improve levels of depression, anxiety and length of stay.”
“The role of a volunteer is to provide support for patients during their hospital stay by visiting different wards and sitting with the patients, talking to them and using techniques such as quizzes, discussion groups and memory games that help keep patients motivated.”

The project was recently shortlisted for its innovation in a national award and won the Trust’s Striving for Excellence Service Improvement Award in 2011. The project initially started in two areas, but has proved so successful that it is now being used on 12 wards.

Miss Mathias-Jones said: “We are now looking to expand and develop the project to ensure that every ward caring for the elderly can benefit from Engage at Salisbury District Hospital. Information sessions will run on Wednesday, 5th February between 10am and 12 noon and Friday 7th February between 2pm and 4pm. For further details and to book on one of these sessions people can contact me on 01722 425105 or e-mail me at If people are unable to attend, but would still like to get involved then we would still love to hear from you. “

Notes to editors

1. The Engage project provides volunteers with an opportunity to give something back to the local community. Volunteers gain hands on experience as well as the opportunity to have training in specialised areas such as dementia, communication difficulties, depression and many more. They will also have the opportunity to attend supervised sessions with clinical psychologists.

2. The Engage project has been running for just over two years. It initially began with five volunteers working on two wards in the hospital, and as the project has developed, we now have between sixty and seventy volunteers working on 12 different wards. In the new year we hope to have the Engage project running in every possible ward at Salisbury District Hospital.

3. The Salisbury team have now trained volunteers to work in Poole Hospital and aim to expand their training to other local hospitals and further afield in conjunction with the organisations that are interested in using the project.

For further information please contact:

Patrick Butler
Communications Manager
Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust
Tel: 01722 425170
Page Last Updated: 08/05/2014 10:08 
Printed from Salisbury NHS Foundation Website