We have been lucky enough to catch a very busy man, David Frost of the League of Friends, St Mary’s Hospital Portsmouth,and share his thoughts and views today. David is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and General Committee, and has been a volunteer with the League for 14 years. His role involves the day to day running of the League of Friends is smooth, both in terms of its volunteers and how it interacts with its outfacing relationships. He can also be found helping in the shop, whether it’s behind the counter, or re-stocking goods and at times with his price gun!  David began by telling us how the League had come into existence.

The Leagues of Friends enjoy a unique history amongst healthcare volunteers in this country. Their direct ancestors were in existence long before the formation of the NHS in 1948. During the first half of the century, with poverty and deprivation widespread, healthcare in the UK needed strong support from voluntary organisations such as Hospital Associations and Contributory Schemes, Ladies Associations, Comfort Guilds, Linen Leagues and Brick Leagues. These groups of volunteers not only built and maintained the local hospitals, they also directly provided  aspects of care, such as clean clothing and laundry for patients.

When the NHS was introduced in 1948, these groups were naturally concerned as to their role in the new system. Many wanted to carry on helping the organisations with which they had built such strong links. Through the help of the then representative body for voluntary hospitals, the British Hospitals Association, they approached Aneurin Bevan for the answer. His reply was immediate – there would always be a place for personal and voluntary services in hospitals. As a result, fundraising and caring services would continue to play a significant role in providing extras for the comfort of patients.

On the 24th March 1949, the British Hospitals Association called a historic meeting which resulted in the formation of the National League of Friends, and soon after on 15th May 1949, the  League of Friends at St Mary’s Hospital was formed, taking the physical form of a table in Main Corridor. It has never looked back.

St Mary’s League of Friends continues to support the Hospital, its patients, out-patients and those receiving care in the community throughout Portsmouth. The Friends provide many of the extras which mean so much to patients, their visitors and staff.  St Mary’s Hospital itself grew out of what were known as the ‘Poor Laws’. It was built as the infirmary to the Workhouse in the 1860’s. Each block was built on a piecemeal basis, only connected by the very long “Main Corridor” in the 1930s. In the year 1890 alone, the hospital recorded over 900 deaths from cholera. Public Health has certainly improved since then!

The League of Friends shops have operated for most of it’s 60 plus years. Since 1949, enormous financial and personal contributions have been made by the League for improvements to the hospital including equipment, furnishings, nurse call systems, staff training, and many comforts for the patients including the numerous television sets to all wards when St Mary’s was a busy General Hospital. It has contributed more than £91,000 since the 2011 refurbishments to the hospital, providing furniture, physiotherapy equipment, curtains and 58 pieces of artwork which are unique to the St Mary’s Healthcare Campus. Some of the photographs on the walls were part of the University of Portsmouth Students’ Photography Competition in 2011. The League also supports the Hospital with a voluntary team of ‘Meeters and Greeters’,who work tirelessly Monday to Friday to help the patients find their way through the hospital.

We give our continuing our support with our Main and Outpatients’ shops. Here, we provide both new and regular customers with a friendly welcome, refreshments and much more from our recently improved facilities. Please come and support us in the knowledge that all profits are donated to the hospital and health care in the local community. We also operate our Coffee Bar in the Enablement Centre for the special support it provides to the patients of this unit.”

David has been involved with volunteering for many years, and has been the chairman of many organisations within his career as well as in the local community, before joining the League of Friends. He heard about the League through a friend who was the Volunteer Coordinator for the Portsmouth Health Trust.

Volunteers for the League of Friends do not have set hours; they have the facility to offer their services where and when they can be. David for instance volunteers for a minimum of 3 hours per week, however, depending on other volunteers and the work that is  required, he can find himself quite easily doing an extra few hours here and there.

David gets a real buzz from the volunteer work he is involved in. When asked about the satisfaction he receives from volunteering, his enthusiasm shines through. “I love it when we are able to make a real difference and supply valuable equipment for which the NHS cannot find budgets for.”

He points out that the most important thing in his volunteering role is helping the sick patients in Portsmouth and working alongside other volunteers who put a lot of time in helping and supporting others. David is motivated by the obvious need of help from Portsmouth Hospitals, and what the League of Friends can do to support this.

By raising the League of Friends’ profile and the work that they do in the public eye, David shares his thoughts about others who may be thinking about volunteering. “it’s a wonderful opportunity to make a difference and to work with other like minded people, and would recommend it if you have spare time on your hands to give.

“If I were to rate, my volunteering experience with the League of Friends, St Mary’s Hospital, I would say it’s a major source of satisfaction”.

The League are always recruiting new volunteers. They are keen to raise their profile within the Portsmouth area, and looking for fresh new faces and ideas to continue the important work that they do, not just for the Portsmouth Hospital Trust, but also for the community.  One of their recent fundraising efforts was in conjunction with the The League of Friends at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, who also contributed to the new Fibroscan equipment for the clinic at St Mary’s Hospital.

If you would like to find out more about the League of Friends, St Mary’s Hospital visit their website at www.lofstmarysportsmouth.org to see what they do and how you can help them.  There is also a short film with interviews with some of the volunteers talking about their experiences.  Alternatively, give them a call during office hours on 02392 680553.

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