NBT’s Move Maker volunteers celebrate 10 years

A group of the Move Makers stood in the Brunel atrium with Chief Nursing Officer, Steve Hams, and large gold '10' balloons.

The Move Maker volunteers at North Bristol NHS Trust are celebrating 10 years of making a difference to patient’s experiences when they come to hospital.

The role was initially introduced in May 2014 for the opening of the new Brunel building at Southmead Hospital for a period of three weeks to help people navigate the new hospital.  However, the positive impact these volunteers had on patients, staff, and visitors became clear and three weeks became 10 years.

Today, the amazing team of around 100 volunteers continue to support the hospital, often as the first interaction patients or visitors have when they arrive. They strive to make everyone’s visit as welcoming and stress-free as possible.

Most hospitals have a meet and greet team, but what makes the Move Makers special is the additional support they provide. Whether accompanying patients to appointments, helping them access wheelchairs, checking them in, ensuring water coolers are topped up across outpatient areas or driving the Move Maker buggy through the atrium of the Brunel building, they go above and beyond. Patients, visitors, and staff share time and time again their appreciation for the bright and warm team. 

Fully immersing themselves into the work of the hospital, they are the eyes and ears of the atrium. The team volunteer over 60 hours a day on average, 52 weeks a year – including Christmas and bank holidays. Since May 2014, the Move Makers have collectively given over 240,000 hours of their time to Southmead Hospital.

The team have a particularly significant impact for patients or visitors with mobility or physical access needs. Since the 1 July 2015, they have transported over 400,000 passengers in their buggy and the team pushes 50 outpatient or visitor wheelchairs on average each day.

The Move Maker volunteers also reflect on the benefit to themselves, as volunteering is associated with improved wellbeing, sense of belonging and self-worth. With an average age of 69, the team bring a wealth of lived experiences to share.

To celebrate their 10th anniversary, Steve Hams, Chief Nursing Officer, visited the team to share his thanks for all the team do to support patients, staff and visitors. Steve said:

“We’re so proud to have this amazing team welcoming patients and visitors to our hospital.

“Their brightly coloured uniform makes them immediately identifiable, and their smile and warmth makes them unforgettable.”


Still helping people find their way - A blog by Jill Randall, Move Maker Volunteer Manager

Jill in the Brunel atirum next to the patient check-in kiosks. She is wearing a bright pink Move Maker polo shirt and smiling.

My memories of the Brunel building are around the opening in May 2014 and the creation of the Move Maker Volunteer Team.

The hand over from the contractors did not occur until mid-April 2014, so comparatively few of the new hospital’s staff had the opportunity in advance of getting to know the vast empty Brunel building.  The challenge for the Trust was how to help staff, patients and visitors find their way around this imposing, innovatively designed building, where all services and wards lead off a magnificent, vaulted atrium, 280 metres long and 6 storeys high.

It was recognised that in the early days, a lot of people would find it difficult to find their way around the new building without a little help and this is where the concept of creating Move Makers was born! It was decided to create a team of guides, based upon the Games Makers deployed in the 2012 London Olympics, but to call them Move Makers! There was an expectation that they would be required for just the first three weeks of the move, until the end of May 2014. 

I was appointed Project Manager to manage all aspects of recruitment, including uniform sizing and colour, DBS checks, shift rota design and implementation, and creating and distributing the essential information pack for each Move Maker to use. As 2014 began, a call out was put in the media and local GP surgeries, and enquiries and applications poured in. The recruitment drive resulted in 100 volunteers being recruited, some with an NHS background but many not.  A half-day training course was held the week before Brunel opened, and only then did Move Makers get their first view inside the building. 

The vision for Move Makers was that they would be friendly and outgoing and would meet and greet patients, visitors, and staff, help them find their way around and if needed help with the electronic patient check-in process located near the main entrance. They would then either guide or take patients to their destination. 

This remains the philosophy to this day, although of course most staff have now become familiar with the building, albeit new staff are often glad of the Move Makers’ assistance on their first visit.

In such a vast atrium, these helpers had to be immediately recognisable and work as a team, so the Move Makers were given brightly coloured polo shirt uniforms that can be seen from a distance, which gives visitors and out-patients confidence that they can approach an individual for assistance and know that the person would help them. Working in a team has made it so satisfying for the volunteers as they continually support each other and learn from each other as new situations arise.  Over time, their tasks have expanded to helping infirm visitors and outpatients by pushing them in wheelchairs to their destination or transporting them in the atrium buggy. 

12 May 2014 witnessed the commencement of three weeks of intense military style operation as the new hospital came alive. Inpatients were wheeled in from the closing Southmead wards as outpatient clinics progressively shut down and relocated to the adjacent new facility. Throughout this period, visitors continued to arrive, outpatient clinics operated and most of these people coming through the doors for the first time didn’t know where to go, which lift to use or how to use the computerised patient check in facility, and so they needed to be assisted! The stalwart staff of the new main Welcome Desk were the front-line Trust staff shouldering this burden, but they really appreciated the Move Makers strategically positioned alongside them. I provided continuous updates on the state of play in respect of which clinics were open and which were not, and the Move Makers themselves learnt the layout of the new building literally as they went along, the team bonded in a fantastic manner. 

No sooner had the old Southmead closed its doors before Frenchay Services, including the Regional Major Trauma service, began relocating to the Brunel! Even the RAF aero-medical ambulance was used to transport Intensive Care patients across to the Brunel building.

Wearing their lime or raspberry coloured polo, the Move Makers were very successful in those hectic early weeks of the Brunel building’s life, and so popular with staff, patients, and visitors alike, that after just two weeks the decision was made to retain their voluntary services indefinitely. Despite only signing up for a three-week stint, to the Trust’s delight 80% of the Move Makers decided to stay on and today, 10 years later, 28 of the original team are still volunteering! 

That’s some retention rate!

My fondest memories

One of my fondest memories of the Brunel building was when I met the Duke of Gloucester.

Move Makers were awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service on 2 June 2019.  This is the MBE for Volunteer Groups and is the highest award that can be given to volunteers.

I found out about the award in April 2019 but was not allowed to tell anyone as it was embargoed until the official announcement at 9am on 2 June – the anniversary of the Queen coming to the throne.  This was made even more difficult because, as a result of receiving the Award, I was invited to attend a Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace even though this was two weeks before the Award was announced! I couldn’t tell anyone I was going to the Palace because then I would have had to explain why!  I couldn’t even tell everyone at the Volunteers’ Tea Party because this was held the day before the official announcement. 

It’s wonderful that all our commitment and enthusiasm was recognised.  It is a privilege to be honoured with this award, which is for all the Move Makers.

We get to display the Queen’s Award logo on all our polo shirts, stationery, publicity material and website and we have a commemorative plaque on the wall near the patient check-ins in the Brunel building atrium.

On 30 July 2019 we were presented with a certificate and commemorative crystal by HRH The Duke of Gloucester, accompanied by Peaches Golding, The Lord Lieutenant of the County and City of Bristol. 

This really was the highlight of my 29-year career at North Bristol NHS Trust and I thank my team for making it possible. 

The Move Makers don’t do it for the acknowledgement, they just want to make everyone’s experience of coming to hospital as welcoming and stress-free as possible.