Volunteers find new ways to keep patients connected during lockdown

For volunteers week and patient participation group awareness week (31 May – 6 June),  we’re shining a spotlight on one of the many PPGs in Leeds where volunteers are making a real difference to patients in their community.

Volunteers at a GP practice in Leeds have found new ways to keep patients active and connected during the coronavirus pandemic.

The patient club at Leigh View Medical Centre in Tingley has been running since 2014 and offers practical activities and social events for patients such as chair aerobics, coffee mornings and peer support groups.

Lockdown meant that they were no longer able to run their normal activities, but the group rose to the challenge of finding new ways to keep people involved.

Chair of the group, Anne Suttle-Burton MBE, said: “Due to lockdown, it was more important than ever that we keep in touch with the people who would normally attend our sessions, as many of them live on their own.

“So far we have made well over 200 calls. The first week, it generally was a case of making contact and checking everyone was okay. The second round proved to be a very welcome call for everyone. Many were so pleased we were doing this and chatted with us for quite a long time which was great. What we have found is that many live alone and are not able to go out and a few have no family to chat with. We have also been able to refer people to organisations that can give support.”

The group are doing more than making phone calls. Aerobics instructor, Doreen Youngman, aged 83, has made several videos of her exercises, which she shares via the Leigh View Facebook page. The videos are proving very popular, with friends and family joining in, and even two of the club members who are currently in Spain.

The organising committee have also embraced digital technology to keep in touch with each other, hosting meetings via Zoom. And while some activities such as fundraising for Yorkshire Air Ambulance are currently on hold, the group are making plans for when lockdown is lifted.

Victoria Allen is the practice manager at Leigh View. She said: “Anne keeps in touch with me every week so I can update her about any surgery news for her to share with the club and she also lets me know what the group has been doing.

“The way they’ve adapted to lockdown has been brilliant. They’re doing a fantastic job of keeping people connected and supporting their health and wellbeing. Everyone at the practice is very proud of what they’re doing to help their local community.”

NHS Leeds CCG has a range of ways that you can get involved in local health services. To find out more, please visit https://www.leedsccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/getting-more-involved/