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‘Adopt a Grandparent’ is a programme that was borne out of an observation by a junior doctor working at Ashford and St Peter’s NHS FT (ASPH) who identified a noticeable ‘cognitive decline’ in elderly patients staying in hospital for many days/weeks.

His concern was, that whilst making every effort to address physical health issues, the social isolation that patients were experiencing was potentially causing or exacerbating mental health issues.

The idea of ‘Adopt a Grandparent’ was to identify a workforce of volunteers who could spend a short time each week simply talking to some of the more socially isolated patients.

The additional benefit of this scheme is that it also serves to break down barriers between the clinical and non-clinical sides of a large NHS organisation and enables the more office-based staff to become engaged in the core business of the hospital, patient care.

A baseline survey identified that over 80% of the patients surveyed cited loneliness or boredom as a problem while they were in hospital and 45% of ward-based staff asked, reported that they had very little understanding of the roles of their non-clinical colleagues.

So, how does the scheme work?

1. A recruitment campaign is run using posters, internal communication and face-to-face promotion

2. Volunteers attend an introductory workshop outlining the aims of the programme and giving some basic training on communication skills and ward health and safety procedures

3. Volunteers are allocated to and introduced to a specific ward, the idea being that they will build a rapport with the ward team with subsequent visits

4. A ‘buddy’ system is offered for new volunteers to be paired with experienced volunteers

5. Volunteers are asked to leave their feedback in a ward based diary, or to email the coordinator

6. Follow-up meetings are arranged to allow volunteers to feedback from their experiences and offer their thoughts for improvements or changes to the scheme

Feedback from the volunteers, ward staff and patients had been extremely positive and the scheme has now been extended by the introduction of a referral scheme whereby ward staff can email the ‘Adopt a Grandparent’ coordinator and request a visit, the coordinator will then contact a volunteer to attend that particular ward. This is being advertised via business cards which have been distributed to all ward areas.

About the Author:

Be the Change
‘Be the Change’ launched in February 2014 as a programme conceived by junior doctors, based on social movement theory and inspired by the national NHS Change Day. Since then, ‘Be the Change’ has become an integral part of the Ashford and St Peter's NHS Foundation Trust (ASPH) Transformation and Improvement Strategy. ‘Be the Change’ provides staff with the opportunity to come forward with ideas for improvement, but also creates opportunities for front-line staff to become ‘Change Champions’ and to develop new skills in their roles. Through the programme, we have developed an approach to ‘bottom-up’ change that: - Builds a broad knowledge of improvement methodology that is simple and repeatable - Teaches measurement, problem-solving and PDSA skills at all levels - Develops people-focused improvement skills, through coaching of teams

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