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Could you be a Feeding Buddy?

26 October 2012


Are you patient, caring, and able to devote an hour or two, or more, a week to help make a direct and instant difference to patients at Southend Hospital – like Vera Bond, pictured here?

If so, why not join our 'red army', an ever-growing band of voluntary mealtime assistants? Known as Feeding Buddies, these red-tabarded helpers assist and encourage some of our elderly and vulnerable patients to eat up.

"These ladies have been lovely to me," says Vera, who has now at home. "They are so kind and always have the time for a conversation. They take time with the menu so I can sort out what I want to eat - the fish is very nice.

"I've been a bit naughty because they always give me ice-cream for pudding; sometimes I have more than one!"

Not only are Feeding Buddies invaluable pairs of extra hands on the busy ward, they also have the time to sit and chat with patients, helping to make mealtimes more relaxed and social.

And it was after chatting to Vera during the course of lunch one day that Buddy Pauline Woolley discovered the tiny 81-year-old from Rayleigh had a passion for ice-cream … "Especially Neapolitan!" interjects Vera.  

Vera's daughter Sue Merchant, 57, also from Rayleigh, has been a regular on the ward since Vera was admitted earlier this month. "I help give Mum her lunch, but it's nice to know she's being looked after when I'm not here," says Sue, who was dividing her time between the hospital and caring for dad Jim, 84, at home.

"I think everyone who has someone they love in hospital worries about whether they are getting enough to eat, so having the Feeding Buddy scheme is very reassuring.  I've watched them with other patients on the ward I've been very impressed."

Southend Hospital currently has around 80 Feeding Buddies, but needs many more to provide two helpers per mealtime on all appropriate wards.

"Good nutrition is essential to helping patients get better and what the Buddies provide is invaluable - they really do make a massive difference on the ward," says clinical development nurse Claire Buckell.

"Buddies come from all walks of life - from students to mums to retired people, to people who have good care from the hospital and want to give something back."

Full training and support is given, and the time commitment can be as little as an hour a week. Pauline, 72, from Rochford, became a Buddy earlier this year, and loves the role, helping out on the hospital's Stambridge and Estuary wards twice a week. "It's social, you are helping and it keeps me occupied; I love it," she says.

Can you help? If so, get in touch.

Email: feedingbuddies@southend.nhs.uk

Telephone 01702 435555 ext 6135 for voluntary services

Telephone 01702 435555 ext 7857 for Feeding Buddy co-ordinators

Click here to read more about becoming a Feeding Buddy