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Hospital pays tribute to work of its volunteers at special Hospital Honours awards and reception event

28 May 2013


Southend Hospital chairman Alan Tobias paid a heartfelt thank you hospital volunteers who between them have notched up more than 100 years service to helping patients.

Eight individuals were awarded Hospital Honours - a specially-made medal given to volunteers with more than 10 years service at the hospital.

The chairman told the gathering: "It is a pleasure and a privilege to stand here today to thank you."

The winners were:

  • Elizabeth Brewster, 78, who works in the main outpatients and in the maternity unit reception
  • Jackie Buckley, 79, a Carecars voluntary driver
  • Margaret (Peggy) Chapman, 79, a patient information volunteer
  • Liz Denney, 70, a central information volunteer
  • Shirley Evans, 79, a patient information desk volunteer
  • Mary Eyers, 75, a kiosk volunteer in main outpatients
  • Doris Trunley, 78, a central information desk volunteer
  • Peter Walker, 86, a Carecars voluntary driver

Peggy spent the last 15 years of her working life at the hospital's pathology labs and loved her job so much that she retired and came back as a volunteer.

She said: "I thoroughly enjoy volunteering. People can be very stressed when they are booking in for appointments. I always try and be light-hearted, and when they say they can't book themselves in using the new technology, I say to them 'well if an old biddy like me can do it, anyone can!"

Peter Walker became a volunteer almost 18 years ago following retirement from a career in finance. "My wife Connie wanted me out of the house, so she suggested the hospital," he explains.

"I enjoy the driving. I always know that the patients are going to be nervous about their appointment or procedure, so I always try and distract them by starting a conversation, and we normally end up having a nice chat."

Afterwards, more than 100 volunteers turned up to a reception to say thank you for all their hard work.

Veteran volunteer Jack Callaway, who has been unwell recently, also managed to make an appearance in a wheelchair - straight from his hospital bed and prior to being discharged.

Jack, who works on the information desk at the old main entrance of the hospital, had been in Rochford Ward but was determined to make the event. "I had to come and say hello," he said.

Known as the 'eyes and ears' of the hospital, the grandfather-of-four from Southend was pushed by his old friend and colleague Pearl Naylor, (fourth from right), currently the longest-serving volunteer at the hospital, with more than  37 years of service under her belt.

Pearl, 86, from Thorpe Bay, was awarded the MBE in 2011 for services to charity. She also helps out at Fair Havens and the Stroke Club at St Mary's Hall in Prittlewell.

During her distinguished career at the hospital, Pearl helped set up what is now the Carecars scheme and also established the information desks to help patients find their way to their appointments, two vital schemes she started as a volunteer herself.

"I just like to help," she says. "I just think I am one of those people who was born to care."

The afternoon held a bittersweet note for voluntary services manager Christine Miller, (pictured, front, with Jack), who retired after 16 years in the role, the last three years on a part-time basis.

Chris, 63, helped set up the Feeding Buddies scheme - mealtime assistants who help encourage elderly and vulnerable patients to eat - as well as recruiting white-coated, yellow-sashed hospital guides to help take patients to clinics at various points around the hospital.

However, the Canvey gran plans to come back in the autumn as a temporary member of staff working on an ad hoc basis, once her third grandchild is born this summer. 

Nominee information

  • Elizabeth Brewster

Beth has been a volunteer since 2002. She was originally in the Renal Unit and then moved to the busy information desk in the main outpatient department before joining the newly-formed information team in the maternity unit earlier this year. Always enthusiastic and ready for new challenges, Beth knows the location of just about every clinic and department in the hospital and thoroughly deserves to be recognised for her volunteering.

  • Jackie Buckley

Jackie became a voluntary driver for our patient transport scheme in 1999 after previously driving for 'Give-a-Lift' in the community and working at the Maybrook  Day Centre for some years.  She has always had great rapport with the patients and is a popular member of the 'Carecars' team.  Her loyalty and support to the hospital, despite some recent ill health, has always shone through and Jackie deserves the recognition for which this award stands.

  • Margaret (Peggy) Chapman

Peggy began as a volunteer on our busy information desk in the main outpatients department, where her time as a special constable in the late sixties stood her in good stead dealing with the many visitors to this busy area. 

When the new outpatient area was built, Peggy opted to help out on the newly-installed patient information kiosks and remains an asset to the department assisting people with checking in, which ensures the smooth running of the clinics. 

  • Liz Denney

After retiring from her job as a secretary in 2003, Liz decided to apply to become a volunteer here at Southend on our central information desk where she has remained.  Liz has a natural way with the patients and visitors visiting this area and also shows great compassion to the visitors who come to our bereavement suite. She is nominated for her loyal support and long service to the hospital.

  • Shirley Evans

Shirley began her volunteering duties in 2001 on the information desk in outpatients and when this area was refurbished decided to turn her hand to assisting with the many patients checking into to the newly established patient information kiosks.  Shirley's knowledge and knack of putting people at ease has been a great asset and has eased the pressure from busy staff in this area.  This award would be an ideal way of recognising her long support to the hospital.

  • Mary Eyers

A volunteer here since 2000, Mary is a valuable member of the information team in the OPD area with her knowledge of the hospital and pleasant manner when dealing with the many visitors to the desk. Always reliable and willing to assist, Mary is worthy recipient of this award in recognition of her longstanding support.

  • Doris Trunley

Doris was a secretary with the St John Ambulance, Rayleigh for many years and then with the WRVS locally, also assisting with the Meals on Wheels service before becoming a volunteer here at the hospital in 2003. Dorisfirst volunteered in the Breast Unit and then moved to work as a hostess in the main OPD area which she thoroughly enjoyed.  After a break from volunteering Doris returned a few years ago and is now enjoying manning the central information desk. Always smiling and ready to help Doris deserves to be recognised for the support she has given to the hospital.

  • Peter Walker

Peter became a voluntary driver with Carecars in 1995 and has been a stalwart support of the scheme ever since. To have achieved just over 18 years service is outstanding and Peter remains a valuable member of the team.  Always a gentleman, he is polite and helpful with the patients and enjoys his volunteering duties.