Whitechapel hospital calls for more volunteers to run trolley shop

PUBLISHED: 08:00 07 November 2010

Steve Harris brings the mobile trolley service to Tracy Johnson at the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel.

Steve Harris brings the mobile trolley service to Tracy Johnson at the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel.


They have brightened up the day of thousands of patients at The Royal London Hospital, but unless they recruit more volunteers to join them, they could soon become just a memory.

They are the friendly faces who staff the mobile trolley shop every day of the year, selling toiletries, sweets and drinks to patients at their bedside, stopping to chat as they do so.

However, the number of volunteers is dwindling, so The Royal London volunteer co-ordinator Ann Norcott is organising an Open Day on 19 November to encourage others to join them.

Ann explained: “We need people who can give up a morning every week to take the trolley around the wards. It’s an incredibly valuable service and it would be a real shame if we had to scale it back because of a lack of people to staff it.”

Retired chef, Steve Harris, 62, from Poplar has been working as a volunteer for two years and explained: “I finished work at 54 with heart problems and I wanted to do something with my time, rather than sit at home idle, so I decided to volunteer after finding out The Royal London were looking for people.

“I enjoy meeting people and the other volunteers I work with are lovely. I also seem to know a lot of the patients – I’m always bumping into someone I recognise.

“It’s a worthwhile thing to do as it can get a bit lonely for people, sitting in a bed on their own and most of them like to have a chat.

“I’d really recommend this to someone who is retired and is looking for something to do.”

Doreen Bernstock, a volunteer at The Royal London for 25 years, said: “You get out of it more than you give. I love the contact with patients, talking to them and showing an interest in their life and it’s lovely to feel that you might have helped somebody.”

Senior Sister, Jennifer Fernandez, who works on Charrington Ward, an orthopaedic ward, said: “Most of our patients can’t get out of bed after surgery, so this is an invaluable service for them.”

“It would be such a shame if we lost this service through lack of volunteers – they are fantastic and go out of their way to help patients, even hanging on to serve them if they are in the middle of treatment.“

Chairman of Friends of The Royal London, Dr Anthea McEwan, which runs the trolley service, said: “Volunteers are needed desperately to keep this invaluable service running. We would be so grateful if people could find the time to help us.”

The Open Day, where would-be volunteers can find out more, will be held on Friday 19th November 2010 from 11 AM until 2 PM, in Room three, 5th Floor, John Harrison House, Philpot Street, Whitechapel.

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