Why hospital radio volunteers still play a crucial role

Volunteers Week (1st-7th June) is an annual celebration organised by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and recognises the fantastic contribution that millions of volunteers make across the country. Yet in the current society, with so many organisations needing the support of volunteers to survive, what makes people choose hospital radio?

Banbury’s hospital radio station, Radio Horton first launched in July 1964 by local journalists, Ted Hanson MBE and Graham Wilton. The core principles of the station were built on volunteering, with the fundamental aim to provide light entertainment, reassurance and a friend at the bedside to patients in hospital by playing their favourite choices of music.

Radio Horton provides PA and raises funds at community events.

To this day, that spirit and pride from volunteering lives on within the station’s membership. Volunteer and Saturday morning presenter, Kitty Opal agrees: “Radio Horton has not only improved my presentational skills but provided me with a platform that has helped my career in the music industry in ways I never imagined. It has built on my interview skills and helped develop some great, lasting friendships”.

Radio Horton Trustee and Programme Coordinator, Sam Smette has volunteered under a variety of roles with the hospital radio station since 2013. Sam thinks the secret to good practice volunteering is to work with your colleagues, and support and encourage their personal development and new ideas.

“One key to volunteer retention is engagement and motivation. In this day and age, where organisations often find their resources stretched, it’s important to encourage your volunteers to utilise their existing skills, to maximise those resources, in addition to finding new talent and allowing room for improvement.”, Sam enthuses.

“You should absolutely listen, encourage and welcome new ideas and suggestions from members to the board, to help steer the future direction of the organisation. Without the enthusiasm, commitment and dedication from our volunteers, our [board] roles as trustees would be far more challenging”.

Long serving member, Colin Beeby has spent more than 30 years behind the microphone at Radio Horton and shares his volunteering experience. “My inspiration was to share with others, my love for all types of music. I hope this will enlighten and bring a few minutes relief to patients within the Horton Hospital”, he explains.

Colin continues: “The difference it has made for me, is making new friends and socialising with them away from the studio environment. At the end of the day, we all have the same passion – to think about patients less fortunate than ourselves.”

Will Beech
Will Beech has gained valuable experience from volunteering.

One of Radio Horton’s newest members, Will Beech was recently awarded with the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award, a national youth awards scheme which aims to inspire and transform the lives of millions of young people. Part of the scheme involves voluntary work, which Will chose to undertake with Radio Horton.

Will said “Volunteering at Radio Horton certainly helped develop my technical abilities, as well as made me more personable. I’ve made several friends through hospital radio, helped at community events, and even assisted with redecorating the studios for the station’s anniversary celebrations in 2015.”

Whilst a rather unique broadcast medium, hospital radio is found to have an impact on psychosocial health outcomes in a recent study commissioned by the Hospital Broadcasting Association (HBA) which surveyed some 250 individuals, including patients, staff and hospital radio volunteers across the country.

The study measured six different impact parameters: Entertainment; Social interaction; Calming and reassuring; Creating a sense of belonging; Feel like an individual and Health and wellbeing; with 89% of hospital radio stations reporting evidence of their impact on social interaction and 92% of stations reporting impacts on providing entertainment.

Perhaps of paramount importance within hospital radio, is the role of the ward visitor. The unsung heroes of hospital radio, ward visitors are the friendly face-to-face contact, spending their time volunteering on the wards of the Horton Hospital meeting patients, helping them use the bedside entertainment systems and discussing their favourite musical tastes, collecting requests for the evening request programmes.

“Many patients might not see a friendly face, or non-clinical staff member during an entire day they are in hospital. Our ward visitors really do contribute and help bridge that gap. Hospital radio can be a welcome distraction away from the medical business and ward activities.”, adds Sam.

New research from the Royal Voluntary Service, a national charity which is committed to helping people in need, has revealed that sixty-three per cent of Britons agree that volunteers provide essential emotional support to hospital patients when doctors and nurses are stretched for time.

Principally, it is important that volunteers enjoy the roles they undertake within any charitable organisation, an ethos that Radio Horton thrives upon. “I thoroughly enjoy volunteering at Radio Horton, presenting and producing my show, meeting new people and being a more active member of the local community and music scene”, tells Kitty Opal.

For Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award winner, Will, it’s about making a difference to patients in hospital: “I love getting to play my favourite music, and share it with people who may need to hear a friendly voice.”

Volunteering can be greatly beneficial to many businesses, public services, charitable organisations and community groups, who all face constant challenges ahead of them, with new technology evolving, adapting and diversifying to new practices and legislation. Predominantly, however, the attitudes towards volunteering and the positive outcomes it can achieve, have largely remained consistent.

Recommending hospital radio as a vocational path, Will’s advice to prospective volunteers is to “get stuck in as much as possible, and help out with as many of the events as you can, you will find it so fulfilling.”

Colin Beeby (Eddie B)
Colin has volunteered at Radio Horton since 1986.

Colin adopts a pragmatic approach and says just donating a short amount of time each week can be extremely valuable, and that volunteering not only creates opportunities, but fond memories too. “If you have a few hours to spare each week to give some light relief to patients, then give it a whirl, it can be very rewarding.”

“A memorable occasion for me was when I was presented my HBA Long Service Certificate from Radio Horton’s President, John Craven!”.

Kitty concurs: “Throw yourself in at the deep end. Everyone is so supportive, that they will keep you afloat until you can keep yourself afloat. If an opportunity arises, grab it with both hands and immerse yourself in this world as much as you can, especially if you want a career within radio and music. It’s going to help you more than you think!”

For more information on volunteering at Radio Horton, visit the pages on the website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*