Spotlight on: ED telephone Volunteers

The high volume of patients seen in our Emergency Department, up to 400 a day, means there is little time available to answer phone calls. That’s why a pilot has been launched, with the support of our Volunteers, to ensure that enquiries from relatives, care homes and other services don’t go unanswered.

Jayne Woodcock is the Volunteer helping with the pilot, which restarted on 17 August with a different approach after an initial attempt to deliver the service in 2021 had to be halted in 2022 due to staff pressures.

“We worked with the ED team to relaunch the service to ensure that all calls to ED via Switchboard get answered,” said Victoria Warren-Potter, Emergency Department Volunteer Co-ordinator.

“They often come from very anxious relatives due to the potentially distressing situations that brought their loved one into hospital, or from services who need information about a patient’s condition, so it’s really important they receive updates.”

During the pilot, the service is available on Thursday afternoons only, but will run from Monday to Friday when fully operational. Jayne, who is based in ED, answers the phone, writes out the information and hands it to one of the nursing team to return the call with the details they need when they are available.

“I enjoy this role because I’m able to be part of an essential service,” said Jayne. “I enjoy handling the different enquiries, then locating and meeting the relevant hospital staff caring for those patients. The callers are always very grateful for my reassurance that I will pass on their message, which makes it feel a worthwhile job.

“Families and friends mostly want to know how the patient is and also sometimes where they are in the hospital. They are worried when their loved one becomes ill and is kept in hospital.

“I think this service is important because it helps to ensure the calls are answered and has proven that callers are phoned back with an update, which prevents them repeatedly ringing and blocking the lines. In one instance, a nurse was able to phone a patient back after they returned home from a hospital visit to reassure them, potentially preventing a re-admission.”

Jayne has handled 24 calls so far and feedback has been extremely positive.

“Being in ED can be very distressing for some patients, who often want to keep their loved ones up to date,” said Helen Attwell, ED Matron.

“Relatives are often trying to call the hospital unaware of the patient’s location and why they have been admitted, and this can create confusion. The reintroduction of this service will alleviate anxieties and ensure a better service for colleagues, patients and family alike.”