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Focus on…Monika Sobanska

New technology is making many things easier in healthcare, but sometimes it can faze those who are not used to it, particularly older patients in GP practices.

A pilot project to put Royal Free Charity volunteers into GP practices to help patients deal with new systems and other practicalities, as well as support practice staff and help with public health campaigns, is being overseen by Monika Sobanska, young volunteer programme co-ordinator.

“It’s sponsored by the Pears Foundation, who were keen to see more young people involved in healthcare,” said Monika, who joined the Royal Free Charity in November 2018. “It also directly relates to the NHS Five Year Forward View which aims to increase the engagement of patients in their healthcare and, of course, it directly reflects the Royal Free Charity’s mission: ‘Making today feel better’.”

Volunteers are placed in GP practices near the Royal Free Hospital and tasks can include:

  • welcoming patients and providing support with checking in
  • encouraging the use of and demonstrating any self-assessment equipment such as blood pressure machines
  • providing companionship to lone patients and signposting them to other services as appropriate             

Volunteers also help reduce pressures on practice staff by gathering and reviewing feedback from patients, helping to educate patients about the appropriate NHS service to use and supporting health promotion campaigns.

“Volunteers’ work on health campaigns can be quite substantial and can significantly help them as well as patients,” said Monika. “We encourage them to develop their own campaigns around a public health topic, perhaps arising from attendance at patient participation groups at the practice.

“This will involve curating data, perceptions and barriers to understanding to feed into posters and other materials for the practices to highlight key messages and signpost further information and resources.”

This work can be very rewarding for the volunteer. “It can give them not only a greater insight into general practice but also show how volunteering can contribute to patient care, involve the chance to develop their research, analytical and communication skills and so improve their CV.”

Despite the rigours of managing this project, Monika also finds time to bring her passion for the therapeutic effects of music to events to patients, organising a range of live music events across our three hospitals.

“There is a growing body of evidence of the value of music in healthcare and we are lucky to be able draw on the talents of students at the Royal Academy of Music and local bands to provide regular sessions in the common parts of the hospital.

“We are also well aware of the benefits particularly to dementia patients and make sure we bring live music to those wards as often as possible.”

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