Sonia's story

I have never given much thought as to why I volunteer until asked by Vicky (Public Involvement Officer for West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Groups) if I would write a ‘testimonial’ about my involvement with PPG’s and other health related groups in the area in which I live. These are my thoughts.

Throughout my career I worked within the NHS, initially training as a general nurse, midwife and health visitor. After qualifying I chose to work in the community rather than the acute sector and quickly became aware of how important volunteers and voluntary groups are to individual patients and to the organisation as a whole, particularly the case for people with long term health needs and their carers.

I took early retirement to relocate with my husband from Northamptonshire to beautiful West Sussex, once settled I had time to spare. I had been appointed as a lay Magistrate when living in Northampton and transferred to the Worthing Bench shortly after moving here but wanted to get involved in the small village in which we had chosen to live. Any newcomer with time to spare is welcomed with enthusiasm and very soon both my husband and I had become members on several committees.

My time on the Bench came to an end with my 70th birthday and shortly afterwards we moved from our small village to Rustington to be closer to public transport, shops and services. It was around this time that I spotted an advertisement placed by Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CWSCCG) for volunteer Public Members. The role involved allocating a few hours a month to be a ‘Patient’s voice’, at Board meetings thus ensuring that the patient’s view was considered when services are planned.  I felt that with my background this was a role that I was qualified for and would enjoy.

Public Members are appointed across the CWSCCG area, my position was to represent patients in the Arun Locality. To do the role justice I needed to consult with local people who were using health services. At the time my own GP practice didn’t have a Patient Participation Group (PPG) so with the help of the Practice Manager we established one. The Group holds regular meetings and offers the opportunity for members to express their view on developments in local health care provision as well as developing projects which benefit both patients and staff.

The REAL (Rustington, East Preston, Angmering, Littlehampton) Patients Group which encompasses the five Practices in the locality, was developed with colleagues around the same time. It is an outreach group, empowering patients by taking information into the community and offering opportunities for local health providers to meet and talk directly with patients about service changes and developments. It also acts as an ‘Umbrella’ group to the five PPG’s in the locality where ideas and good practice are shared.

So, back to the question, why am I involved? There are many cliches about why people volunteer, most of which I have found to be true. I do get more back than I put in, I meet new people, I form friendships, I have a sense of worth, I feel useful, I am using the skills I have acquired throughout my life and hopefully I am helping people as their advocate, everyone benefits.

If you’re tempted to volunteer, give it a try, Get Involved, I’m sure you won’t regret it.