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Help is here for the aged.

A hospital trust in the North East has become the first to recruit Older Persons' Champions throughout its hospital wards.

The elderly will now be able to find a friend at every hospital ran by Gateshead NHS Foundation Trust.

In all, nearly 80 Older Persons' Champions have been recruited from every department, which means that no matter where in the hospital an elderly patient is being treated, there is always someone on hand they can turn to for help and advice.

Champions are easily recognisable because of the large OPC badge which they wear at all times.

Posters explaining the champions' role are also displayed in every ward and department notice board.

Joanne Coleman is a vascular nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead.

She said: "First of all, we researched staff and patient opinion to see if there was a need to provide more support for elderly patients.

"Once we recognised a scheme like this would be beneficial, we asked staff to volunteer as Older Persons' Champions.

"We were inundated with enquiries from everyone in the Trust who genuinely wanted to help.

"Now we're in the very lucky position of having one and often two Older Persons' Champions in every single department. We've had lots of positive feedback from patients and the scheme has been very well received."

The volunteers have all received relevant training for their new roles and will be supporting elderly patients in a variety of different ways.

They will work on behalf of the older person to help combat any perceived ageism and make sure all elderly patients are being treated fairly and without discrimination.

In addition, they will help them operate their bedside telephone or simply provide friendship and a listening ear.

Older Persons' Champions meet up every two months for training and to learn from shared experience. A support system is in place for any complicated situations they may have to encounter.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 31, 2005
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