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40% of hospital patients receive no visitors

Call for better use of hospital volunteers

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Two-fifths of patients on UK hospital wards get no visitors, new data shows.

A survey of nurses working in acute hospitals by the charity the Royal Voluntary Service identified that the 40% of patients without visitors require additional support from the nursing team.


Lack of visitors was felt by nurses to have a detrimental effect on patients’ health and speed of recovery in a number of ways. These include; they are less likely to be mobile (43%), less likely to be stimulated through conversation (56%) and less likely to follow medical advice. A considerable number, 37%, were more likely to have a longer stay in hospital.

Over half of the NHS nurses questioned (56%) said a volunteer presence on ward was very important and that volunteers could help with patient care in a variety of ways. In particular they referenced; increasing patient satisfaction by providing vital non-medical support on wards (49%) and improving patient nutrition and hydration levels by helping at mealtimes and during the day (50%).

Previous research published in a Kings Fund report commissioned by Royal Voluntary Service and Helpforce, also found strong support for volunteering among frontline staff. Highlighting the practical help they provide which in turn frees staff up for clinical care, 90% said volunteers add a lot of value for patients and 74% said they also add value for staff.

Following the NHS Long Term plan asking hospitals to double their volunteers in the next 10 years, the Royal Voluntary Service is calling on more hospitals to make the most of volunteers to improve patient health.

Sam Ward, director of commissioned services for the Royal Voluntary Service said: “With results showing two-fifths of patients may not see a visitor during their hospital stay, it is clear that more is needed to be done to support them. Volunteers offer a professional support service, encouraging mental stimulation, physical activity, and more that can play a significant role in both mental and physical recovery. It is vital that hospitals work together with volunteer service providers to make sure that patients across the country are able to access this support.”

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