Our Helpforce Christmas heroines: 34,000 Mail readers signed up as NHS volunteers

It’s a year since the Daily Mail launched our unique Hospital Helpforce campaign, encouraging readers to volunteer in the NHS. 

An incredible 34,000 of you signed up, giving up your time to support the dedicated health professionals working in our Health Service. 

Volunteers are making a difference every day – including Christmas Day. Here we tell the stories of two of these Christmas Day angels… 

Emmy Webb, 68, is an author and scriptwriter who lives in London. Her husband Roger Webb, who was a musician and composer of theme tunes (including for George and Mildred) died of a brain tumour in 2002; their only child, Julia, was killed in a car accident in California at the age of 31 in 2005.

Emmy Webb, 68, volunteered at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital this year after both her husband and her daughter died

Losing my husband and daughter has been tough and I’ve experienced a lot of grief over the years. Since Julia’s death I have spent most Christmases on my own as I have no other family left. 

I have friends, but they usually go away for Christmas or spend it with their own families and it can be very lonely – I don’t mind admitting I‘ve often sat and cried, watching TV soaps on my own, but somehow I have got through it all.

This year I decided to spend the day volunteering at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, doing whatever is useful in the hope of making a difference.

I became a volunteer after reading about the Daily Mail Helpforce campaign last year – it struck a chord, as I know what it’s like not to have any relatives, and I thought I could visit people in hospital and cheer them up.

I now volunteer at the Chelsea and Westminster for three hours a week and am really loving it. I help out on an elderly care ward – many of the patients have dementia but what I’ve found is that they love to have someone to sit with them and listen to them. 

It seems to calm them down. On Christmas Day I visited four different wards and spoke to the patients, some of whom were on their own and did not have anybody else visiting them.

They were very happy to see us, though unfortunately some patients with dementia did not even know it was Christmas, which was very sad. But it was really quite a happy experience and thank God the sun was shining, so many of the patients were sitting by the window looking out.

The real saints are the nurses and doctors at the hospital. They work 12-hour shifts and what they face is very difficult. 

The work they do is unbelievable. They are all so kind and dedicated it’s really heartwarming – but they’re also incredibly busy so volunteers can help by allowing them the time to do their job.

Last week I was helping out at the hospital children’s party, putting up decorations, and it was wonderful to see the children’s happy faces. Some of them were extremely ill – one little toddler had been in hospital for most of her life: when you see what some of them go through it puts your own troubles in perspective.

Tess Ostrom volunteers at the Chelsea and Westminster twice a week for three hours a time helping on a surgical ward

Tess Ostrom volunteers at the Chelsea and Westminster twice a week for three hours a time helping on a surgical ward

As I came out, the parents of one child stopped and thanked me – it was wonderful to feel like I’d helped in some way – and I came home with a tattoo of a penguin on my arm and stars painted on my face!

My contribution is so tiny compared to what the doctors, nurses and other staff do, but I come out of the hospital with a smile on my face every time. 

Tess Ostrom is a former training manager with Fortnum and Mason and lives in Fulham, London.

I’m an avid Daily Mail reader and I’m also passionate about the NHS, so when I read about the Helpforce campaign last Christmas I was keen to join up.

It’s so easy to take the NHS for granted – but it’s always there when you need it and I personally have a lot of reasons to be grateful to it. My late father had excellent care for several years when he was in and out of St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, before he died of old age in 2012. 

My brother Toby had a stent fitted at St Thomas’s Hospital ten years ago and is eternally grateful for that.

I now volunteer at the Chelsea and Westminster twice a week for three hours a time helping on a surgical ward – it’s an absolute pleasure and this Christmas rather than go to my brother’s, I thought I’d do something different and pay something back to the NHS by volunteering for the day.

There were so many people who did not have visitors, which leaves them feeling a little depressed. So it was nice to touch base with them as I visited four wards.

The morning was very much about making sure people were comfortable and warm, giving them extra blankets if necessary.

We made patients tea, handed out presents and wished them a merry Christmas. Some even needed a little help to phone relatives. 

A lot of what we did was just taking people’s minds off their situation and I like to think we helped brighten up their day and provided some cheer.

I’m just an extra pair of hands on the ward but it’s so nice to be able to give practical help and support to patients when they may be feeling vulnerable. Hospitals can be lonely places for patients and their relatives who sometimes spend many hours waiting around and a kind word or gesture or smile can make all the difference.

Sometimes I’m dashing around fetching drinks, cutting up food for patients, asking if they’d like another pillow or blanket, reading to them, or picking up prescriptions from the pharmacy for the nurses and escorting patients for blood tests or sitting with them while they wait for an X-ray. It’s so varied and I enjoy it so much I often stay for longer than my three hours if I’m needed.

Not only have I met some amazing people through volunteering – including other volunteers – but the whole experience gives me a warm feeling. I think it’s absolutely fantastic the Daily Mail launched this campaign – lots of people like me sit at home wanting to volunteer and help out, but not knowing how, and the newspaper gave us the tools to get involved.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk