They will be tasked with looking after patients’ non-clinical needs.
The British Red Cross will help patients and NHS staff in 11 Welsh hospitals this winter
Image: British Red Cross
British Red Cross volunteers are synonymous with helping people across the globe during times of crisis, such as famine, natural disasters or deep conflict.
But now they are being brought into struggling Welsh A&E departments to offer support to patients and overstretched doctors and nurses.
While trained NHS staff deal with the clinical needs of patients, Red Cross workers will be entrusted with prioritising their pastoral care needs.
That could include sitting with patients while they wait to be seen, keeping them hydrated and warm, or directing family members to their loved ones if they can’t find them.
They will also take some patients home in special vehicles to save them waiting potentially lengthy periods of time for a non-emergency ambulance to be freed up.
Once home, the Red Cross driver will then help resettle the patients by ensuring that food and heating is available, as well as making any care arrangements if necessary.
This winter the scheme, which proved successful last year, is being expanded to operate across 11 Welsh hospitals – including seven emergency departments 10 hours a day, seven days a week.Where the Red Cross scheme is running
The scheme is already running in:
- Ysbyty Glan Clwyd
- Wrexham Maelor Hospital
- Glangwilli Hospital
- Withybush Hospital
- University Hospital of Wales
- Royal Gwent Hospital
- Princess of Wales Hospital
- Morriston Hospital
It is starting this winter in:
- Royal Glamorgan Hospital (launched 16 December)
- Prince Charles Hospital (launched 16 December)
- Ysbyty Gwynedd (expected to start this week)
A&E departments at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, Llantrisant, and Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr Tydfil, are set to use the service for the very first time.
John Palmer, chief operating officer at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, said: “Winter creates particular pressures on our emergency department system as we see admissions rise and subsequently increased service pressures. It is imperative that we are as prepared as we possibly can be.
“For all patients waiting to be treated in our emergency departments over the winter months, our aim is to ensure that we provide the best possible healthcare experience. This begins when our patients first arrive at reception until they leave for home.
“Our winter planning involves us working closely and successfully with our statutory partners; Welsh Ambulance Services Trust, other health boards and local authorities but it also means reaching out to a wide range of voluntary sector and community partners such as British Red Cross.
“We are delighted to welcome the team into our emergency departments and look forward to receiving feedback of this crucial service by our visiting patients.”
British Red Cross have been commissioned by Welsh Government and the Joint Collaborative Commissioning Unit to pilot this service across Welsh hospitals until March 2020.
In winter 2018-19, the service helped more than 100,000 people, with feedback showing that 100% of patients were satisfied with the service and 97% would recommend it to others.
Claire Cooper, service manager for British Red Cross, said: “Red Cross staff and volunteers are there for reassurance and support. In the emergency department, we work closely with NHS staff to prioritise patients’ pastoral care needs.
“After a patient has been discharged, we will take them home and help them to settle in by putting the heating on, making them a cup of tea, contacting a relative or neighbour.
“But most importantly, we have time to spend with people, listening to their concerns, spotting problems and empowering them to find the right support.”
According to latest figures, 90,882 came through the doors of all Welsh A&E departments in October 2019, less than the 91,873 recorded in September and 92,860 in August.
Some 75.3% of patients spent four hours or less in the department before being admitted, transferred or discharged in October, the same percentage as September but worse than August (77.5%).
The British Medical Association believe this winter could be the toughest on record for the Welsh NHS due to dwindling bed numbers and a rise of chronic conditions.