volunteer wearing purple polo shirt chatting with a patient

Mealtime Companion


This role supports patient recovery through encouraging eating and drinking.  

Commitment level

2-4 hours, weekly or fortnightly for a minimum of 6 months

Shifts available 7 days a week.  Approximately 10.00am-2.00pm or 4.00pm-7.00pm

Summary of duties

This role strictly does not involve feeding of patients 

•    Report to ward manager or nurse in charge on arrival
•    Tidy and clean the patients table ready for meal time
•    Through conversation find out likes, dislikes, and dietary requirements of the patient. If you notice any discrepancies with their order notify a staff member  
•    Position trays, cutlery, cups etc. on tables so that patients can easily access them
•    Encourage the patient to wash their hands before eating 
•    Ensure food and drink is within easy reach
•    Make sure the patient has everything they need once their meal is served
•    Cut up food for the patient where required
•    Verbally encourage the patient to eat and drink themselves.  Do not feed the patient
•    Spot ways to make the mealtime easier for the patient, e.g. opening packets.

Offer companionship to the patient if they request this during their mealtime or afterwards. You can also engage with the patient with various activities e.g. reading, doing puzzles. 

Skills, experience, attitudes, and qualities needed


•    Excellent listening skills and a non-judgmental attitude
•    Compassionate 
•    A friendly and open manner
•    To feel comfortable in an acute hospital environment
•    To adhere to the Trust values of treating others with respect and dignity at all times
•    Understand the importance to stay within the boundaries of the role description


•    Experience working with people with cognitive impairments or dementia
•    Experience working with people with autism or a learning disability 

Training and information provided

•    Volunteer mandatory training programme (please find further information on our FAQs page)
•    Specialist nutrition and hydration training for volunteers, including supporting patients with visual impairments and dementia.
•    Department orientation and induction
•    Shadowing induction sessions with an existing volunteer or staff member demonstrating the role.
•    Ongoing supervision and support 
•    Ongoing updates and information

Challenges of the position

•    Coming into hospital can be an anxious time for patients and their relatives. Sometimes this may make people less tolerant than they might usually be and they may come across as impolite. It is important that the volunteer remains calm and listens politely and seeks staff support immediately if required.
•    Potentially supporting patients with cognitive impairments or dementia (around 25% of inpatients at NBT have dementia), additional training and support will be provided. 

Boundaries of the position

Volunteering within the NHS has clear boundaries to ensure that we are keeping our patients and volunteers safe. Please download the detailed role description below for further details. 

Reimbursement of expenses

•    Travel expenses to and from the hospital can be reimbursed
•    Meal vouchers for use in the staff Vu restaurant are offered if volunteering for over 4 consecutive hours in one day

Benefits of volunteering

•    Gain practical volunteer experience and learn about the healthcare environment 
•    Develop skills and experience that may be transferable to paid employment, such as working as a part of a team
•    Opportunity to help/support patients during a difficult time
•    References can be provided on completion of three months volunteering, if required
•    Ongoing support and supervision sessions
•    Making friends with other volunteers and meeting new people
•    Awards in recognition of volunteering contribution
•    Light refreshments when on duty
•    Free parking

Recruitment information

You will be asked to provide two independent references from people who have known you for more than three years (this cannot be a family member).

You will also need to have a standard Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check for this role, which will be paid for by the Trust.

How to apply

If you would like to apply for this volunteer opportunity, please click the link below to be taken to the application portal, where you will be able to apply online: 

Current Vacancies | North Bristol NHS Trust (nbt.nhs.uk)

If you would like an alternative method to apply, such as a paper application form, please get in touch with us directly on: 

Telephone Number: 0117 414 0110

Email: Volunteer.services@nbt.nhs.uk

Postal Address: Volunteer Services, North Bristol NHS Trust, Brunel building, Level 1, Gate 18, Southmead Hospital, Bristol, BS10 5NB