Sixth formers at Derby Grammar School are taking part in an innovative volunteering programme feeding and caring for patients at Derby’s London Road Community Hospital.

Louis Hale, Hannah Lakritz, Daniel Diaz Blanco and Amogha Ramasharan give up their time once a week to volunteer at the hospital, feeding and talking to patients, many of whom have dementia.

They put themselves forward after listening to a talk from Julie Bradley, Volunteer Co-ordinator at the hospital, who visited Derby Grammar School to tell students about the opportunity to become Mealtime Assistant Volunteers.

The students all took part in an induction process and received training before going out on to the wards.

Louis said: “We had half a day of wheelchair and feeding training and we also had an NHS induction for a whole day; that was really interesting.

“I’ve been going once a week for three weeks now and we are supposed to be going in for 24 weeks but I’m hoping to extend that. I’ve loved it so far; I like talking to people anyway so it’s good to be able to talk to the patients. Some of them don’t get many visitors. I think this is a great experience for us and will hopefully help going forward as I want to study Medicine.”

Hannah said: “I’m really enjoying it. I help feed patients who can’t feed themselves and talk to them too. Staff can’t look after all of them all of the time so it’s like having an extra eye.”

Daniel said: “I think the best part of it is that you can really make someone’s day. The patients are by themselves a lot of the time and then we come and talk to them and they really appreciate it. There was one person who couldn’t really hear properly and he just wanted me to hold his hand. I think it’s great to get this unique experience which will really help as I want to go into Medicine.”

Amogha said: “I think having the interaction with the patients is the best bit. Staff are happy that we are there to help and one said that we don’t realise the difference that we make.”

Julie said: “Derby & Burton Hospitals Charity are thrilled to have received funding to be able to recruit young volunteers aged 16 – 18 from local schools and colleges to become Mealtime Assistant Volunteers. These students are trained as Mealtime Assistant Volunteers, feeding patients where it is required as well as providing the stimulation for the patients to be ready for their meals.

“They are helping to enhance the patients’ wellbeing and their nutritional intake when they are in hospital leading to a speedier recovery and will also help the young people who may be interested in a future career in healthcare.

“We are delighted with the enthusiasm and commitment the students have brought to the role and they are proving to be a welcome addition to our wards and enhancing patient experience.

Karen Stebbings, Head of Sixth Form at Derby Grammar School added: “Work experience like this is a prerequisite for anyone wishing to apply for a degree which falls within healthcare, however, we are aware of how difficult it is for them to secure work experience placements within a hospital.

Here at Derby Grammar we offer our students a host of opportunities to explore their career options. When Julie approached us with this scheme we delighted. Our students are performing a really valuable role whilst gaining compassionate work experience in a hospital setting.”