Volunteers return to Blackpool Victoria Hospital after pandemic restrictions

Volunteers at Blackpool Victoria Hospital have returned to their duties after they were stood down at the start of the pandemic.

Saturday, 25th September 2021, 12:30 pm

Apart from a short period in June, volunteers have been unable to help with the running of the hospital since March last year.

Dotty Wignall and Susan Lawler, volunteers on hand in the main entrance guiding and advising visitors. said it was "good to get back to normality."

The pair have worked together for six years, and were delighted to be reunited.

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Dotty Wignall and Susan Lawler have volunteered together for six years. Pic: Blackpool Teaching Hospitals

Dotty said: "It is good to get back to normality. I love meeting people and being able to help people.

“Quite often visitors are stressed or anxious about friends and family on wards, people who are very poorly. This hospital can be a bit daunting, so we try and put their mind at rest."

Susan, who previously ran her own newsagents and gift shop, is getting accustomed to the new responsibilities of her role, including ensuring everyone sticks to the infection prevention guidelines.

She said: “The majority of people have been absolutely brilliant about wearing the masks, sanitising their hands, but we do get the odd one or two who think they don’t have to abide by the rules. For everyone like that there are hundreds who say ‘fine, no problem.'”

Betty the therapy dog with her owner Graham Curry. Pic: Blackpool Teaching Hospitals

One of the Trust's most popular volunteers is canine companion Betty, who offers pet therapy to patients and staff at the Vic.

Accompanied by her owner, Graham Curry, Betty is back in action offering companionship and cheering up many who might feel lonely on the wards.

Graham said: "I visited one particular patient who was suffering from dementia. She was in a side ward and just lying in bed and hardly speaking but as soon as she saw Betty, she reached out and started speaking, it was amazing to see the effect she had on this patient.

“Another lady said before I had come in she was feeling depressed but the visit of Betty had really improved her feelings.

“Betty was so welcomed on the wards. Many of the staff have been getting cuddles and taking selfies.”

Blackpool Teaching Hospital’s new chief executive, Trish Armstrong-Child, thanked the Trust’s large group of volunteers, who returned to their duties over the last few days.

She said: "It is fantastic that on my first day at the Trust we welcomed back our hugely important cohort of volunteers..

“I know from my early conversations that the volunteers at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals are well-loved and well-liked within the Trust.

“Very often our volunteers are the very first faces one of our patients will see as they are welcomed through our front doors, and it is always comforting to have a friendly face, one with a wealth of knowledge about the hospital.

“It’s great to have them back after being out of action due to the pandemic, their presence has provided a huge lift to the organisation and I look forward to thanking as many of the volunteers as I can when I am out-and-about visiting our various wards and departments.”