UNIVERSITY Hospital Southampton’s “super” volunteer role has been recognised nationally for improving mealtime and mobility support for older patients.

The role was developed by staff at Southampton’s teaching hospitals in 2017, and is part of a national project with Helpforce.

Helpforce is an organisation set up to improve and expand volunteering in the NHS, funded initially by NHS England.

More than 70 volunteers were taken on to help make improvements across University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

In reports released by Helpforce, analysis shows that 96% of patients accepted mealtime assistance over the course of the project, with patients provided with support, ate 53.3% of heir main meals and desserts.

Carrie Smith, voluntary services manager at the hospital, said: “Being part of this pilot project with Helpforce enabled us to further develop ways of supporting our patients around three key areas – befriending, support at mealtimes and mobility.

“Throughout the programme we have supported and engaged with other trusts by sharing our learning and we are now keen to look at further ways to help support and improve our patients’ experiences by involving volunteers to complement other services.”

The volunteers received training from the speech, language and dietetics team to develop the mealtime helper role.

The volunteers help open packaging, and encourage patients to eat and drink, cut up food, and ensure the right cutlery is available.