Coronavirus: Volunteers offer lifeline to patients in pandemic

By Andrew Kerr
BBC Scotland

  • Published
NHS volunteers Carly Horne and Ben Gebhardt
Image caption,
Carly Horne and Ben Gebhardt are volunteering at the Give and Go desks at a Glasgow hospital

There is a lifeline service operating in Glasgow's hospitals giving patients a link to the outside world while visiting is banned.

A group of volunteers are running "Give and Go" desks where families can drop off parcels for their loved ones.

It means patients can receive a bag of treats and home comforts while confined to hospital during the pandemic.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have a bank of these desks in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Govan.

Claire Tennant is a dentist who has just dropped off a parcel for her seriously ill father.

"It is a very difficult time and I think this is a lifeline for us because when he was in the Royal previously during the pandemic he wasn't allowed any personal things and that was very distressing for him," Ms Tennant said.

"We feel we at least have a connection and giving him a few things that we know will pass the time and make things a little bit more bearable for him."

'Extra mile'

Relatives can drop off a bag with fresh clothes, newspapers and sweets - even a charger to keep a mobile phone battery topped up so a patient can communicate with the outside world.

Carly Horne is one of the volunteers who checks in the parcels.

She said: "I'm planning to become a doctor so I thought it would be good experience to see what it would be like in a hospital.

"It's not been without challenge but it's really good to see everyone coming together, working hard and doing their jobs."

Many of the volunteers are furloughed from their main jobs.

For Heriot-Watt geography student Ben Gebhardt, university came to an abrupt end before lockdown.

He sought out something different and welcomes the feedback from families.

"I think everyone appreciates what we're doing here," he said.

"It's also the fact that it's volunteering - I think people appreciate that you go the extra mile just to do something good."

Image caption,
Bob McCormack received his daily newspaper via the volunteers on the Give and Go desk

Another parcel has just come in from Patricia McCormack.

Her husband Bob is upstairs in one of the wards - so the blue plastic bag is placed on a trolley before going up in the lift.

Entering the ward, we don surgical masks and gel our hands as the trolley is wheeled into Mr McCormack's room by a nurse.

She places the bag on the bed - a fresh shirt emerges and today's newspapers.

"I can't do without my newspapers," Mr McCormack said.

"It's a lifeline service when there are no visits or visitors allowed - some contact with the outside world."

Image caption,
The "give and go" desk are at the main reception at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has marked National Volunteers' Week by praising the 80,000 Scots who had volunteered their services during the pandemic.

Back downstairs in the hospital reception, we caught up with Margaret Connolly, the Associate Chief Nurse for Excellence in Care for the health board.

Ms Connolly also praised the volunteers' work, saying: "We had a lady who dropped off a dressing gown for her mum and later that day she was able to see her mum on Facetime with her wee dressing gown on, so it's really about building people's support and giving them a confidence boost while in hospital.

"This is really uncharted waters for us all and we normally have our family support while we have loved ones in hospital.

"Obviously circumstances don't allow that at the moment, so we're trying to bridge that gap and make a positive experience."

These small acts of kindness from friends and family for those isolated in hospital are helped along by the band of dedicated volunteers.