The Unsung Heroes of the NHS

Ahead of #IWillWeek, Kirsten Law, from NHS Lothian has blogged on youth volunteering within the NHS & their new youth volunteering programme. 

If I asked you to write down everyone who worked in a hospital, I wonder how long it would take until ‘Volunteers’ appeared on the list? It may surprise you to know that we have approximately 500 people volunteering in NHS Lothian every week, and it might surprise you even more to hear that over a quarter of those are under the age of 25!

That’s right, we have well over 100 young people every week giving their time to help patients, their families and the staff of NHS Lothian. Our young volunteers are involved across every hospital site in the Lothians, performing roles that vary according to the site and patients’ needs.

We have volunteers in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children who come in at bedtime to read and play with children, to help them settle for the evening, and other volunteers who prepare fresh fruit and bring it around the wards to children and their families. In the Western General, we have young people going around the wards with tea trolleys, not only offering hot drinks but a friendly face for a chat.

Some of our older patients are sadly in for long stays and don’t get many visitors, so knowing that there is someone for them to talk to, and not about their medical condition, can really help relieve isolation. At the Royal Infirmary, there are volunteers helping people recovering from Stroke to take part in activities such as arts and crafts and games in a fun, safe and supportive way. 

Our Volunteers do so much in incredibly difficult circumstances. Hospitals are busy places and, of course, the people they are interacting with can be very ill, which can be difficult to see. They carry out their roles with care and compassion, knowing that the time that they give will make a real difference.

We have a range of opportunities for young people to get involved in volunteering within NHS Lothian. We have specially designed programmes for 16 – 25 year olds, which offer support and guidance in their volunteering roles. These are fixed term summer and term-time placements. In addition we have an advisory group of young people who act as advocates for youth volunteering and will help train and support the next generation of young volunteers.

You can use your volunteering with the NHS towards your Duke of Edinburgh award. We are an Accredited Activity Provider and we also support young people to work towards a Saltire Award if they wish. We want to make sure that we value the contributions that our young volunteers make and that they are recognised for their caring work.

If you would like to know more, please check out our website: 

Or get in touch with Kirsten, Youth Volunteer Manager, at

Ready to get involved in #IWillWeek? Download our #IWill Partner Pack. Here you’ll find all the information and resources you need to engage with the campaign and spread positive messages about the #PowerOfYouth! 

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  • Publish DateWed, 13 Nov 2019
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