Second helping of awards for mealtime volunteers programme

28 Jun 2024
Women in marquee with a  trophy shaped like a star

A pioneering programme developed at the University of Winchester to give students hands-on experience of a hospital ward has won a second award.

The Mealtime Assistant Volunteer Placement, created by the University’s Nutrition and Dietetics programme in collaboration with Volunteer Services at Winchester’s Royal Hampshire County Hospital, has been honoured by Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust HHFT.

The mealtime scheme helped Volunteer Services scoop the Innovation Award at the 2024 HHFT People Award.

The programme was developed by Dr Emma Parsons, Senior Lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics and Irantzu Arregui-Fresneda, Lecturer in Dietetics who joined members of Volunteer Services to receive the award at a ceremony held at Winchester Cathedral.

Earlier this year the scheme received the Dame Barbara Clayton Award for Innovation from the British Dietetic Association (BDA).

The placement scheme, an example of practice-based learning, allows students to begin clinical training in a hospital setting in their first semester.

Student volunteers’ work involves feeding those that need help or simply being there to speak to older patients. Students also receive a tour of the hospital kitchen.

Placements involve two two-and-half-hour shifts per week starting from early November and running through to March.

Winchester is the only university offering such a placement for allied health students. The programme is also unique in that it comes so early in the students’ course.

Students who have taken part say it has given them confidence to work in a hospital environment and in turn the hospital has benefited from having extra eyes, ears and hands at mealtimes ­- some of the busiest periods on any ward.

Emma Parsons said: “A lot of cross-organisational work has gone into developing this placement and it’s now really starting to gain traction. People are reading about in on social media and it it’s a unique part of our programme.”

Jane Davies, Head of Patient Experience at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are so delighted to have won the Hampshire Hospitals People Award for Innovation, a real example of how working together can bring a new idea to life and have such an impact on so many people.”

 “The mealtime assistant volunteer role added over 5,000 hours of additional volunteer mealtime support for our patients since we turned an idea into reality in 2021. 

“Patients have told us how helpful that extra time spent with them at mealtimes has been, our ward teams have welcomed and appreciated the additional help to encourage good nutrition and hydration as part of the care we provide, and students have told us that they have learnt so much in their roles when talking with patients and being part of the ward teams.  We are proud to have made a difference together.”

The scheme has recently been rolled out to the University’s Physiotherapy students who now volunteer across several roles on different sites within the HHFT area.

The placement will be discussed when clinical dietitians from across the south gather at the University of Winchester on 11 July for a regional practice education showcase event.

The scheme was also shortlisted in the ‘Creative Provision of Placements’ category at the 2023 Chief Allied Health Professions Officer (CAHPO) Awards.

Pictured at the HHFT award ceremony are (from left) Jane Davies, Beth Reed, Clare Beckingham, Caroline Nash, Jackie Baxendale (from Volunteer Services at HHFT), Shirlene Oh (Chief Strategy & Population Health Officer at HHFT) and Emma Parsons and Iran Irantzu Arregui-Fresneda from the University of Winchester’s BSc Dietetics programme team.

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