Volunteers with long term health conditions help each other in new ‘time bank pilot’

Some of the Time Bank volunteers are pictured here along with staff from Plymouth City Council.

Some of the Time Bank volunteers are pictured here along with staff from Plymouth City Council and other partners.

A group of people in Plymouth with long term health conditions are volunteering to help each other and provide mutual support, thanks to a new initiative in the city.

Plymouth City Council and Northern, Eastern, and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW Devon CCG) have commissioned Timebank South West to develop a new ‘time bank’ for local people living with long term health conditions. The time bank will work on the basis of people giving up their own time to help each other out, volunteering to build their confidence, increase their social networks, find out more about their condition, and ultimately, self-manage their condition. The concept has attracted interest of a number of GP practices and has the support of medical students from MegaReach, an organisation based on the principles of acts of kindness and volunteering.

The time bank was launched at a workshop on 19 November and already has a group of committed volunteers who are a mixture of university students and community members and staff from the CCG who are aiming to try this approach for themselves.

Councillor Lynda Bowyer, Plymouth City Council Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care said: “We are very excited about this new project, as we know that people with long term conditions can get overwhelmed with their diagnosis and they need information given to them at their own pace.

“We also know that people can feel isolated by their condition so the project will help link people into their local community. Time banking is an excellent way for them to not be seen simply as a ‘patient’ but as someone who has skills to give as well as getting support to orientate themselves to having their condition.”

Alan Butler, a Research Fellow at Plymouth University, was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes around 18 months ago and uses the time bank. Alan said: “When you’re first diagnosed with something it can be quite scary and you feel like something in your body isn’t working properly. I saw my doctor and was given my repeat prescription but you feel like you need to speak to other people in the same boat.

“The time bank is a great way to speak to other local people about your health condition and help come to terms with it, and also support each other. People can buddy up and volunteer their time to help each other. I would definitely recommend it to other people.

“There can be some stigma attached to some health conditions and it’s important to be able to talk about them.”

How does the time bank work?

  • The time bank is initially open to people who have been recently diagnosed with a condition – whether this is diabetes, respiratory problems or a mental health problem.
  • All volunteers will be trained, DBS checked, receive ongoing support and mentoring and earn Timebank Credits.
  • Time bankers who are DBS checked can be matched with patients with ongoing support from the time bank ‘broker’, and there will be an induction workshop
  • Following the pilot phase the aim is for the time bank to be on offer more widely.

More information – If you are interested in finding out more, please contact liza@timebanksw.org  or Tel: 01752 395131.