In conversation with Helen, Healthlink Volunteer

We were thrilled to hear from Helen, one of our Healthlink volunteers in Brighton.

There are many different ways to volunteer, and at Volunteering Matters, we are fortunate to have a variety of unique projects that offer flexible and interesting volunteering opportunities suitable for most people’s availability and skills. In Brighton, our Lifelines programme includes Healthlink, where volunteers accompany people to health and social care appointments. These volunteer opportunities are ideal for those who want to make a difference in their community but have limited time and need a more flexible approach.

Curious to find out more we recently spoke with Helen, a Healthlink volunteer. Here, Helen shares what being a Healthlink volunteer involves and why she recommends volunteering to others.

A woman with blond hair sat on a chair smiling at the camera

“I retired from working for the NHS as a nurse for 42 years, where I had a brilliant career. Following retirement, I moved from London to Brighton, where I went to the Healthy Living Event aimed at people over 50. That’s where I met the Lifelines team, who had a stand at the event and found out about their fantastic volunteer opportunities.

I wanted to volunteer after retirement, but with a limited time commitment as I have caring responsibilities which are my top priority. I spoke with the Volunteering Matters’ Lifelines team, who introduced me to their project, Healthlink. The flexible time commitment for volunteers works perfectly for me, as I don’t want to let anyone down.

I undertook the volunteer onboarding last Summer. I also did volunteer training with Lifelines at the Community Base in Brighton. The training was very thorough, and it was great to meet other Lifelines volunteers; everyone has been so friendly and welcoming, and it feels like a team. As I was new to the area, it has been nice to meet people in Brighton through volunteering.

As a Healthlink volunteer, I support people with attending their health and social care appointments, including GP, dentist or hospital appointments. Many people do not have anyone to accompany them or take them to appointments, which prevents them from accessing health and social care. Healthlink is not a driver service. Instead, we aim to help people get to their appointments through various means such as patient transport, taxi, walking and bus.

The main goal is to ensure that people can attend their appointments, and having someone accompany them alleviates anxiety. The people I support often ask me to join their appointments to remind them of any questions, and I’m always willing to take notes. The positive impact of Healthlink is two-fold; it benefits the patient as they can get the medical and social care attention they need and reduces missed appointments for the NHS. As an NHS professional, I believe every region should have a Healthlink project.

People tell me they feel far less stressed attending appointments with me there. I’ve met some fascinating people; one gentleman managed to travel around the world for just £60 way before the internet was around. People appreciate the company and support. Two heads are better than one for capturing complex information and medical feedback.

The people I support are a combination of those who may be socially isolated or whose family members are not readily available due to living in other locations or work commitments. Knowing that there is a volunteer to accompany them is reassuring for their family members. There are also people isolated due to bereavement or mental health issues, and attending medical or social care appointments is vital to their overall well-being.

I have had a steep learning curve as a Healthlink volunteer. It is important to keep an open mind and be ready to respond on the spot when communication is difficult. For example, I have learned how to collapse an electric wheelchair in order to fit it into a non-wheelchair-friendly cab. It means a lot to help people in ways I didn’t expect to.

I enjoy volunteering with Lifelines, and plenty of other exciting volunteer opportunities are available when I have more time to commit. The team hosts monthly volunteer drop-ins, which are very sociable with lots of peer support. All in all, it’s a fantastic experience!

I would 110% recommend volunteering to others. It is so rewarding, and you meet amazing people, and at the end of the day, you feel like you’ve done a good job. I look forward to volunteering more in Brighton and making a difference in the local community through social action. It’s a win-win!!”

We were also delighted to hear from someone who uses the Healthlink service;

“I have found the Healthlink service to be invaluable as I would not be able to get to my health appointments without it. I have so far had help from two volunteers on separate occasions and have found them to be friendly, capable, supportive, and punctual. They have met me at my flat and walked with me to appointments at my G.P. surgery and back as I am agoraphobic. Communications around setting up these appointments has been prompt and clear. I feel very re-assured and grateful for this excellent service. Knowing it is there when I need it goes a long way towards improving my health.”

If you feel inspired by Helen’s story, why not start your volunteering journey today with us today and see what’s available in your local area here.

Share this project
Get in touch if you’re interested in volunteering or would like to refer someone to this programme.

If you live in the Brighton area please contact us.

Back to top of the page