What is your role?
I volunteer here at the Royal Derby Hospital one day a week, Tuesdays. I’ve been here for over five years and to begin with I delivered newspapers around the ward. Then I worked in the Medical Assessment Unit for a year. Then a position came up in the registrar’s office, registering births and deaths. Here I help people who are dealing with a bereavement, helping them with getting the death certificate sorted.
It’s a difficult job and not just anyone can do it. You need to learn how to read people, how to understand what they’re going through. A bit of life experience really helps in this way. And at the other end of things, you help register births, which is perhaps a happier side to the job, seeing new babies and parents coming in.
But most recently I have learnt to be a buggy driver. We have several buggies, which drive up and down the corridor of the hospital, taking patients who have difficulty walking from one place to another. I had to learn the basics of manoeuvring safely, of turning the buggy around before I could do the job. I do half a day in the office and half a day on the buggy.
Why did you want to volunteer?
In my career I worked for years at Rolls-Royce and, after that, I was a postman – a driver – for 15 years. After I retired I wanted to keep working and helping the community and my wife Pat had worked on this site as a senior theatre sister for more than 26 years so I looked into volunteering.
Something I’ve learnt about volunteering: volunteers get as much out of volunteering as they give. When I was delivering the newspapers to the wards I would be seeing these people in beds and you’d think ‘there but for the grace of God goes me’.
But as a volunteer you have something special: you are not medical. When people come into hospital it’s a new environment and possibly a scary one and they meet all these people with all this knowledge and that’s good, that’s reassuring. But when they meet a volunteer they meet someone they can relate to, someone without the medical background. I can just sit and chat to people. Some people want to talk and some don’t – especially when you’re dealing with bereaved people, as I do – but you’re here and you make a big difference. There’s people come in and I know that without me and my buggy, they can’t get from A to B. A lot of people work here, some for a lot of money, some for none at all. But everyone makes a difference.
What do you like about working at Derby Teaching Hospitals in particular?
We have 500 volunteers here in Derby and we make a real difference. The volunteer co-ordinators are very careful here in Derby to give volunteers as many opportunities as possible. Like I say, they look for those people who might work best in a given role, so you feel you are using your skills for the best benefit. I’d always been interested in the possibility of driving the buggy so I was given that opportunity. There’s a real appreciation of the work volunteers do here in Derby.
If you’re interested in making a difference and becoming a volunteer, get in touch.
If you would like to register as a volunteer, click on the link below, once registered we will send periodic emails detailing our current vacancies, you must reply to the emails to be consider for each volunteer post.
We currently have no facility to offer parking for anyone wishing to volunteer, so please consider this if you are thinking about volunteering.
Why did you decide to take part in the programme?
When we first heard about it, the producers had said they wanted to show the work that volunteers do in the hospital and in particular the buggy service. What they wanted was to have someone learning to drive the buggy. Well, that fit with what I was interested in doing so I volunteered. But I knew it was an opportunity for a lot of people to see how a hospital runs on a lot of different parts, volunteers being one of those parts.
Also, I’m quite relaxed about being filmed. From about 1959 onwards, I’ve been in various rock and roll bands and played some fairly big venues. I was in that original beat scene which came out of the fifties, played bass guitar. So I was quite familiar with that kind of thing; it wasn’t a problem.
How was it working with the camera and crew?
The film crew would film for five or six hours a day for a period of days so you soon got to know them all. They were all really nice people and had patience with you, let you get on and do your job. So when they asked if you could do something again so they could get a different angle, you were quite willing to help out.
They attached a camera to the buggy for some of it, capturing me and the people I was carrying for a few hours to get a range of footage. And then they also had a camera man following the buggy in a wheelchair, capturing things from another angle.
How do you think viewers will react to the programme – especially the parts you appear in?
I hope people realise that volunteers don’t do this work for themselves, for their own self-gratification. What they are doing is trying to make the experience of going to the hospital better and easier for other people. I think patients who have been in hospital appreciate the work of the volunteers but in general people don’t recognise it. I hope this programme changes that a little.
What are the moments you’ll remember from the experience?
There was a couple. I remember for one scene they wanted to capture me turning the buggy around in the corridor. You have to do it when you get to surgical outpatients, in order to get back. Anyway, I had learned how to do this and there is just enough room. But then they put their cameras on board and suddenly it was a bit bigger. So I couldn’t do the turn in one sweep, I was having to reverse and the reverse alarm was going off all the time, a loud squeak and, well, it was a bit of a situation.
And I’d had a microphone put on me, near my neck. The crew had asked if I could shave my neck because they were getting all this feedback. I did that and we did the filming and later, I was leaving the hospital, about to get on the bus and the producer came running over – I’d still got the microphone on.