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Caring community working unpaid to keep Doncaster hospitals on track

You may recognise Pauline Handley or Lynn Buxton

If you've been to the Doncaster Royal Infirmary, it's possible one of them would have been one of the first faces you saw there.

Doncaster Royal Infirmary volunteers Pauline Handley and Lynn Buxton  'Writer:

Doncaster Royal Infirmary volunteers Pauline Handley and Lynn Buxton 'Writer:

They're not a doctors. They're not nurses. They're not clinically trained. And they're not paid. Yet every week, they are out there putting a shift in.

Pauline and Lynne are two of the hundreds of volunteers who give their services for free at the DRI to help other people when they're unwell.

Their work varies massively. Some stay with the dying to make sure they are not alone. Some staff important facilities like the site's library.

But Pauline and Lynn are two of those run the helpdesk at the main entrance.

Volunteers Neal Bond, Michael Parkinson and Jean Hepworth, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP DRI Volunteers MC 2

Volunteers Neal Bond, Michael Parkinson and Jean Hepworth, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP DRI Volunteers MC 2

Pauline, aged 71, from Westwoodside gives up her time to man the front desk at the hospital, and has been helping people find their way around the site for the last 17 years.

On Tuesday mornings and Friday afternoons she is there, rain or shine.

Before her days as a volunteer, Pauline worked as a comptometer operator, working an early form of computer, in the wages department at ICI on Wheatley Hall Road.

She left when she had her children, who are now aged 43, 45, and 49.

Pauline got to know the hospital when later when her mother and father were unwell. Her dad had two strokes and her mum suffered from dementia. She was aware of volunteers working in the coffee shop at the site, and her experience made her aware of how important they were.

She applied to work as a volunteer herself after seeing an advert in the Free Press - and has never looked back.

She enjoys what she does.

"I really like meeting people," she said. "We direct people where to go. They come in and we're here for them. I wouldn't keep coming if I didn't enjoy it. It's great to be be able to walk with people and chat to them, and I feel I've made good friends here."

Among those who she has met during her time as a volunteer is Lynn.

Lynne, aged 60, has been giving her time there for 15 years now, and decided to offer her services to the hospital after she finished work as a child minder.

"I was a child minder for 15 years," she said. "I had friends who knew people who volunteer here, and I found out that I also knew people who were here. I'd always fancied working in a hospital, and having worked with children I thought I could help out on the wards.

"But I tried working on the helpdesk, and I enjoyed it. I like helping people and its great to get feedback that you've helped someone - you feel like you're doing good. I work with a good group of people and we're all of a similar mindset.

"Sometimes you get awkward customers, and sometimes its hard to find a wheelchair for someone, but most people are really good with us.

"Before I had children I worked in the computer department at Peglers. They I had my two children. I became a grandmother again recently, so I'm doing childminding again sometimes!"

In total, there are currently around 245 volunteers working for the Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals Trust, at the Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Mexborough Montagu Hospital, and Bassetlaw Hospital.

They are not just at the helpdesk - they work all over the Trust.

There are escort volunteers who meet and greet patients and visitors and escort them to places if necessary, and library volunteers who visit the wards offering a portable library service,

There are also bereavement volunteers who help the bereavement staff and Butterfly Volunteers who sit with patients who are at the end of life, enabling families to have a brief respite with the knowledge that their loved one is not alone.

On top of that there are ward companions who are based on the Gresley Unit, who sit with Dementia Patients reminiscing and playing games etc. There are also volunteers in the Chatsfield Suite, Jasmine Centre, Discharge Lounge, Eye Clinic and on many of the wards.

Suzy Brain England OBE, the chairman of the board at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals, is aware of the value the legion of volunteers bring.

She said: “We rely upon our volunteers to provide assistance where we otherwise cannot.

"Their compassion and dedication to the Trust is impressive and appreciated. They support thousands of patients who pass through our doors every day. We always appreciate this vital contribution, but this week is the perfect opportunity to let our volunteers know just how important they are to us.

“I want to thank each and every one of our volunteers for supporting DBTH in their free time – your contributions are invaluable to us”

* If anyone is interested in volunteering at Doncaster's hospitals, contact Nicki Ramshaw on 01302 644403 or email at nicola.ramshaw@nhs.net