Royal Voluntary Service needs help to deliver hospital services in Falkirk

Appeal...Lorna Stevenson (left) hopes more people will join the  ranks. She is pictured with service assistant Shane McCann and volunteer Lesley Leishman. (PIc: Michael Gillen)
Appeal...Lorna Stevenson (left) hopes more people will join the ranks. She is pictured with service assistant Shane McCann and volunteer Lesley Leishman. (PIc: Michael Gillen)

The cafe and ward trolleys run by the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) at Forth Valley Royal Hospital are an integral part of the establishment.

While they’re always busy, volunteers have been even more so in the last month.

Busy shifts...time flies by in the RVS cafe at Forth Valley Royal Hospital where there are three shifts every day. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

Busy shifts...time flies by in the RVS cafe at Forth Valley Royal Hospital where there are three shifts every day. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

For in January and February, they have helped the NHS respond to winter pressures by providing free fruit and water to patients, visitors and staff.

Conducting extra rounds with the trolleys, they have visited the accident and emergency department and outpatient clinics – in addition to their usual four-and-a-half mile route.

But their extra effort is very much appreciated by NHS Forth Valley.

Elaine Kettings, head of person centred care, said: “The RVS volunteers do a fantastic job and these extra trolley rounds have been much appreciated by local patients and visitors.

“Little things like free fruit and water can make a big difference to the patient experience, especially at this busy time of year.”

The additional trolley rounds have brought more visitors to the RVS cafe, which is situated next to the mental health wards at the rear of the hospital.

It has also shone a light on the fact that more volunteers are now needed.

Lorna Stevenson, RVS service manager at the hospital, has just 42 volunteers on the rota, aged from 14 to 78 years old.

Together, they cover three shifts daily in the cafe which is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4.30pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 3.30pm.

Four volunteers also do ward rounds with two RVS trolleys seven days a week.

Each trolley round covers four-and-a-half miles – but the RVS is still only covering half the hospitial.

Lorna said: “Ideally, we would like to have four trolleys to cover the whole hospital but we don’t have enough volunteers.

“Our volunteers are amazing and have a real affinity with the patients, their visitors and staff.

“But it’s sometimes difficult to cover all the shifts, particularly if volunteers are struck down with bugs doing the rounds – it’s like a domino effect.

“We always manage but we’d love to do more.”

To achieve that, though, many more volunteers need to be recruited.

RVS regularly allows school pupils to do their work experience in the cafe – it has partnerships with Larbert High, Carrongrange High and Denny High.

The Boys’ Brigade and Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme are also rich recruiting grounds.

Lorna said: “They have to volunteer for a certain amount of time and we’re delighted to welcome them.

“The patients always love to see the youngsters and chat with them.

“And the young people, who are often very shy to begin with, leave us with so much more confidence.”

While recruiting young people helps the RVS, it often only bolsters volunteer numbers for a short time.

So Lorna is keen to hear from anyone who could spare a few hours each month.

She said: “Volunteers come from a variety of different backgrounds.

“They have to be relatively fit to do the trolley rounds and it is a very fast-paced environment in the cafe.

“But there are three shifts each day in the cafe which pass in a flash and we only ask volunteers to do what they can. We are happy to work round their schedule.

“They don’t have to commit to a shift every week; if they can volunteer once a month, we’d be happy to hear from them.

“They can also choose where they want to work, be that in the cafe or on the trolleys.

“The RVS at Falkirk Community Hospital needs volunteers too so people also have the option of working in Larbert or Falkirk.

“We wouldn’t be able to offer our services without volunteers so we are happy to utilise their skills where and when we can.”

Shane McCann (19) has been employed by the RVS as a cafe service assistant for the last year and the former St Mungo’s High School pupil loves it.

He said: “You get a lot of different characters coming in but I love speaking to the older patients and visitors and hearing their life stories.

“I really enjoy my job – not everyone can say that.”

Lesley Leishman (74) from Larbert has volunteered with the RVS for two years, after retiring from catering at Callendar House. She also volunteers with Christ Church in Falkirk where she is the people’s warden.

Lesley said: “We visit parishioners who can’t get out of their homes.

“But I was looking for something else to do and friends told me about the RVS. It’s very worthwhile.”

Founded as the WRVS in 1938, the charity changed its name in 2013 to the Royal Voluntary Service.

Today, it has more than 20,000 volunteers.

For more information, visit www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk, call 0330 555 0315 or Lorna on 01324 567622.