If you look around, you’ll see them everywhere – those red T-shirts, bustling about the corridors of hospitals across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, stopping for a chat, or serving you coffee.
The people in them are NHSGGC’s red army – the hundreds of volunteers who give their time to support the work of our staff. Day in day out, they turn up, put on those T-shirts and work for nothing to help make life a little better for patients, visitors and staff.
And without them, a stay in hospital during the pandemic would have been missing an important connection with friends and loved ones.
The Give and Go service, where our volunteers delivered care packages from relatives to patients in all our hospitals, provided a much-needed taste of home at a time when normal visiting was not possible.
The service brought the volunteers out of the background and into the limelight, with their red T-shirts becoming a much-loved symbol of a vital support service, and bought praise and thanks from patients, visitors and staff alike.
And this week – during Volunteers Week 2021 – the latest gesture of thanks was delivered by Deirdre Nelson, a local artist working as part of the Woven in Govan project. She presented hand-made soaps to volunteers, and staff, at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital as tokens of appreciation for their efforts in the past year.
Explaining her thinking about giving soap as a gift, Deirdre, from Glasgow, said: “During the pandemic, soap was a really precious item. It was so essential to keeping safe, and it was quite a thought that through such a simple action as washing our hands, we took care of each other.
“I was already interested in the people who worked behind the scenes, who didn’t really see themselves as delivering care, and then I heard of the wonderful work of Give and Go. I really wanted to create a special gift for them – a way to say thanks.”
In total, more than 300 volunteers worked in the Give and Go service, each week delivering upwards of 3000 personal bags to patients, supplying items such as toiletries, snacks, mobile phones and iPads, books and clothing.
Many of them were already volunteers within the health board and moved to Give and Go when the service was set up. When the service came to an end last month, many of the volunteers went back to their previous roles, with others starting new roles to support NHSGGC’s return to a new normal.
Harry Balch, Volunteer Manager with NHSGGC, said: “Give and Go was a wonderful service to be involved with. These amazing people put themselves on the front line to deliver this vital service, and their selflessness has been such an inspiration to us all.
“But beyond Give and Go, our volunteers are a critical and much-loved part of the NHSGGC family.
“During Volunteers Week, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank every single one of them. Without their hard work, their good humour and their positive outlook, life for everyone in all our hospitals just wouldn’t be the same.”
Margaret Connolly, Assistant Chief Nurse at NHSGGC, who helped roll out the initiative across Greater Glasgow and Clyde, added her thanks: “Give and Go played a crucial role in helping us continue to deliver person-centred, compassionate care to patients in the midst of the pandemic. The feedback was wonderful, and it brought a smile to thousands of patients in hospital.
“I hope the work they did, and the way they helped us to delivered person-centred care across our sites, will help us to shape volunteering across NHSGGC for years to come.
“We can’t thank them enough for all their efforts. I and so many of my colleagues will never forget them.”