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WA4 Volunteering in partnership: a public health approach to delivering compassionate care to those at end of life and the frail elderly
  1. Gail Wilson
  1. St Luke’s Hospice, Plymouth, UK


Background Young people are often denied volunteering experiences with vulnerable dying people as this is considered to be ‘too distressing’. This project challenged this paternalistic attitude and trained young people to volunteer in the hospice, and other organisations to enhance the delivery of compassionate care.


  1. To promote dignity in care, for older people, people with dementia, those at end of life and those with learning disabilities. To reduce social isolation and the stigma associated with dying and being old.

  2. To create new volunteering opportunities for young people to raise their awareness of the needs of the dying and the frail elderly.

  3. Develop a model of best practice – that could be replicated in other parts of the country.

Method A health promotion approach was used combining education and a community development, partnership approach. Results 120 Volunteers delivered over 3,650 hrs of volunteering activities, supporting individuals to engage in social activities. The project broke myths about having 16–18 year olds volunteering. The relationship between the hospice and the local community has strengthened and the employability skills for the young people taking part have increased. 16% of those who responded to an exit survey had gained full time employment, 9% had gained university places.

Conclusion The personalisation of care for the frail elderly and those at end of life has increased by the use of volunteers. Young volunteers need mentoring. Staff needs support to feel confident to utilise the volunteers and let go of myths about risks.

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