Volunteer voices are helping to spread the word about a new service that joins up health and social care in Sunderland - after signing up to become community-based Champions.
All Together Better, a partnership that brings together a number of health and social care services, now has a dedicated team of ambassadors who have signed up to support on a voluntary basis and talk to their friends and networks about the programme.
The champions are given information and training about changes to Sunderland’s care delivery before heading out to various community groups and events to spread the word, as well as sharing their knowledge with their own friends and neighbours.
All Together Better is geared towards people in the city who need the most help and support – typically older people and those with several complex conditions – and provides a holistic service that is designed to keep people out of hospital and as independent as possible.
Margaret Overy, 78, and Janet King, 68, are two of the 10 champions.
Margaret, from Chester Road, heard about the scheme through being involved with the choir group at Age UK Sunderland – the organisation charged with signing up volunteers on behalf of All Together Better.
She said: “The volunteering immediately appealed to me because I’ve worked with older people my whole life and I love it, but I think the work we do as champions is so important – helping people to understand what care is out there to support them.
“Everyone should think about becoming a Champion and help us spread the word.”
The champions talk people through All Together Better, which is part of the NHS’ vanguard programme, launched in 2015 to tackle pressures on the health service, and in Sunderland’s case to reduce the impact of the three per cent of the city’s population that currently uses over 50 per cent of resources.
Mike Lowthian, patient, public and carer engagement coordinator for All Together Better, said: “All of our Champions are doing a fantastic job, especially because All Together Better can be quite complex to explain, in particular to those who are most in need of it and are often older people who are used to care being provided in a certain way.
“Our champions will also help us to distribute many hundreds of leaflets to the general public in busy shopping centres and local supermarkets, bringing a better level of understanding of how All Together Better works and how these more effective and efficient services can improve the quality of care offered to people in the city.”
To find out more about All Together Better Champions, go to www.atbsunderland.org.uk/get-involved.