How I started

I started volunteering with the Patients Association in May 2013, joining as Membership Officer, after seeing an ad for the role.

I had recently retired from a senior management position at a medical royal college, and saw that the Patients Association, based at Northwick Park, was only a few stops on the Metropolitan line from where I live. I was aware of the Association through someone I knew at work and later discovered he had worked on the helpline. So I applied, was offered the role, and started visiting the office a half day a week.

What do I do?

People wanting to become members apply via the website. I send them a welcome letter, outlining the benefits of membership, such as our weekly enewsletter and our membership magazine, Patient Voice, joining focus groups, and so on. I make sure their details are correctly recorded in our database and keep that up to date. The application form asks people their main reason for joining and what they’re interested in: these vary from being part of the Patient Participation Group (PPG) at their, wanting to keep abreast of developments affecting patients, disillusionment with the NHS.

The annual membership subscription was dropped in 2018 with the aim of increasing membership numbers and this has resulted in an increase from under 400 members to nearly 3,000 members to date.  

I also deal with donations.

Why have I been here so long?

I missed being in an office environment, working with colleagues once I’d retired, which is why I applied for the role. Changes have taken place at the Patients Association since I started including a new Chief Executive and senior management team, a redesigned and more efficient website, improvements to the membership magazine, which has made it more attractive to readers, and the introduction of a new database. I was somewhat dreading the new database having been through several IT changes in the past but that turned out to be very smooth and didn’t present any problems.

Part of the team

I am regularly included in staff meetings, strategy meetings, helping to plan the Annual General Meetings, and social events. I offer my help and opinion where I feel it is appropriate. This year we are marking the Association’s 60th year and I am looking forward to being part of the celebrations.

Post pandemic and working from home

We are all working from home. I miss the office atmosphere but join a weekly Teams staff meeting on Tuesdays to keep me updated and we have a weekly social meeting called Coffee Club, which reflects the casual conversation you might have when you meet a colleague in the kitchen. Is an opportunity to talk about anything – TV programmes, films, books, decorating homes, holidays and making cakes. But one benefit of working from home, is that I can access the members’ database at any time instead of the day I used to go into the office.

Would I recommend it to others?

Definitely yes, I get a huge sense of pride when I see the Patients Association mentioned in the media. I like that it covers all patients and is not limited to specific conditions.  We have a new Chair of Trustees, Ann Lloyd Keen, who will want to put her own mark on how we move forward. Volunteering is an opportunity to contribute to an organisation that works for the good of patients and is respected by government bodies and the NHS. It has given me a focus.

E Evans