Before the pandemic I was helping out as a volunteer in the Communications Team, writing blog posts and also helping out at the Men’s Cookery Club on a Friday. I had tended to shy away from the ‘sharp end’ of the work of the hospice thinking it wasn’t really my sort of thing, but when the first lockdown hit in March 2020, the hospice suddenly found its volunteer force reduced by over 70%. Particularly affected was the in-house Hosting Team, the importance of whose role was to significantly increase over the coming months.

My wife Janet was already part of the Hosting Team so I decided to see if there was anything I could do to help. Serving patients wasn’t really on my radar, but Andrew (Front of House Manager) and Helen (Host Supervisor) suggested I might like to help out with the Host Liaison, or Welcome Point role. For those of you who, like me, didn’t know what that was, it’s the reception role which took on a new significance with the new restrictions that were introduced.

I started off not at the normal Welcome Point but at a desk in the dark corridor, outside the drugs room, near the Park entrance. We were having to record the number of visitors, ensure they were kitted out with the correct PPE and log them in and out. In time I moved back to the normal desk and into the light!

As time went on, I found myself in scrubs, undertaking risk assessments of visitors, operating the till at lunch times and even supervising Lateral Flow Tests for visitors. I learnt how to communicate better and to smile through a face mask. Wearing scrubs actually helped me and the other Hosts to feel more part of the team too, all wearing scrubs together. As so many things have changed over the months, I have learnt so much more about the work of the hospice and the staff involved both here and in the community.

I have met some lovely people, both staff and visitors, and quite a few characters along the way. Like the visitor who would try all sorts of tricks to avoid wearing PPE until he realised he couldn’t get away with it. It’s been a real privilege to try and help anxious relatives through the initial trauma of being here and to see the looks of delight on their faces when they realise what an amazing facility we have here, along with a wonderfully caring team of professionals. Alongside the work of the Inpatient Team, I take my hat off to the Community Team who have continued daily to carry out their role in patients’ houses throughout the pandemic.

As restrictions begin to ease I guess we’ll see things start to move to something more like normal operations. At some point the need for testing and Track and Trace will subside, the Café will once again open and The Street will come back to life. Will I continue in the role I have been doing during the pandemic? Who can say; maybe not. What I do know is that this last year has been a really good one for me; being able to continue to get out of the house and come to the hospice, plus the feeling of being some use to others and getting a much broader picture of what the work of the hospice is about, has been a bright light in what could otherwise been a very dark year.