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Friends for Parents at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children

949. Gillian Wilding

Gillian Wilding, from Bristol, has led the ‘Friends for Parents’ volunteer initiative at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children for 30 years.

Gillian Wilding

She runs the dedicated service providing everything parents might need while their children are in hospital. From delivering toiletry packs, to running errands for parents who do not want to leave their children’s bedsides, there is no job too big or small for Gillian and her team of volunteers who are easily identified on the wards by their distinct orange polo shirts. Gillian’s work has inspired hospitals across the world to adopt the successful ‘Friends for Parents’ model, including institutions in Malta and Africa.

As part of the celebrations for the 70th Anniversary of the NHS, volunteers who are making a real difference within the health and care sector are being recognised over seven days by the Prime Minister. Gillian was invited to an NHS70 roundtable and official reception at No.10 Downing Street on the 4th July, where she was presented with her certificate by the Prime Minister.

In a personal letter to Gillian, Prime Minister Theresa May said:

“You have dedicated yourself to providing a listening ear and helping hand to parents at one of the most challenging points in their lives. You and the group of volunteers you lead give parents vital support as they cope with the emotional and logistical challenges of having a child in hospital. Over three decades you have comforted countless families and, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of our NHS, I want to pay tribute to the enormous contribution you have made.”

Carolyn Mills, chief nurse for University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We are so thrilled that Gill’s efforts have been recognised at this national level, which is particularly poignant in the year the NHS turns 70.

“For the past three decades, families of patients at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children have been able to rely on Friends for Parents volunteers, thanks to Gill working with the Mother’s Union and our chaplaincy service to set the group up in 1987.

“The team make things easier for families during some of their most difficult times, listening and talking with them on the wards, running errands for those who do not wish to leave their child’s bedside, and making sure the parents’ rooms on each floor of the hospital are fully stock with tea and coffee supplies.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who volunteers their time at our Trust, and to congratulate Gill on this outstanding achievement.”

Darren Jones, MP for Bristol North West, said:

“I am delighted to hear that Gillian’s hard work and dedication has been recognised with this award. That Gillian has been a volunteer at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children for 31 years is truly inspirational and epitomises #NHS70! The ‘Friends of Parents’ support network that Gillian volunteers with offers invaluable support to parents at one of the most difficult time in their lives, the group’s support cannot be underestimated. Gillian and her team have been an inspiration to many hospitals across the world and Bristol North West is very proud to call her a resident.”

Gillian said:

“Supporting families at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children by volunteering for 31 years has been such a rich experience.

“From the privilege of listening and talking to so many families from across the South West and Wales, entering their lives for a short while, to the sustaining support I have had from the other members of the ‘Friends for Parents’ team and encouragement from staff, it has been such a positive and memorable time.

“How wonderful it is to receive an award for something I have found so fulfilling!”

Watch Gillian’s response to receiving a Points of Light award:

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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