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Volunteers are changing lives for the better

Heart mentors at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, Anthony Barratt and Gitanjali Gordon.

Heart mentors at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, Anthony Barratt and Gitanjali Gordon.

Health mentors at Blackpool Victoria Hospital are helping patients change their lives.

The volunteers spend their time speaking to outpatients at The Vic, offering advice to help the quit smoking, stop drinking or eat more healthily.

Since the project started in October 2012, thanks to funding from the British Heart Foundation, the monitors have spoken to 14,000 people while they are waiting for appointments or being treated on the wards.

In January alone they have spoken to 1,500 people.

And the most popular topic of conversation, they say, is alcohol.

Health mentor co-ordinator Tracey Englishby said: “All our mentors have access to specialist services both inside the hospital and in the community.

“If patients want help in whatever area, we can refer them to those services.”

Gitanjali Gordon, 42 of Layton, has been trained in social care, and became a health monitor to help boost her understanding of the health services.

She said: “Being a mentor, you are a friendly face offering support to people who may be facing difficulties.

“I think some people find it easier to approach us than a member of staff, and if they want help it’s easy for us to start them off.

“For us, we get that extra sense of wellbeing when you’ve helped people change their lives to be more healthy.”

For Anthony Barratt, 73 of St Annes, he wanted to do something that would keep him busy when he retired from BAE Systems.

“In 2008 I was diagnosed with chronic leukaemia, and I wanted to give something back,” he said.

“If I can stop one person from smoking or from drinking, it’s worth it and it’s a lovely feeling.”

Tracey added: “We are getting information that prior to speaking to our mentors people are not aware of the help that’s available for them.

“Our research is that one person in every eight that we speak to will make a change in their lives, and that’s fantastic for us.

“Our volunteers give a total of 100 hours a week to carry out this important work.”

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