Elsie Sutherland – CCG and Croydon Health Services NHS Trust volunteer
“I worked for the London Borough of Lewisham for over 30 years, starting as a care assistant in the 1980s. I changed jobs to become a Sheltered Housing Officer where I worked with the elderly who came into sheltered housing to be more independent and to take care of themselves. Many of them received meals on wheels and home care service. I would work with them over time to gain their trust and eventually encourage them to start to cook for themselves and to gain more confidence through independence. Whilst working with Sheltered Housing I introduced a local fish and chip evening as well as line dancing classes which created a real sense of community which also prevented people feeling isolated.
“When I was 51 years young, I went to college to get my social work degree, while still working within Sheltered Housing. I mostly worked with the elderly, again it was about building relationships and trust with my clients.
“Today I volunteer with Croydon University Hospital undertaking spot checks on care on the wards. This covers everything from patients’ confidentiality, to the environment to meal times. My aim is to make everything as user friendly as possible! I’m also a part of my Patient Participation Group at my GP practice. I try to encourage regular speakers in to talk about work being done in the area and to raise awareness of diabetes and cancer. I’m really passionate about prevention and keeping people, especially elderly people, out of hospital.
“I really love working with different teams and trying different things to meet people’s needs. I truly believe in collaboration and bringing everyone together to make something work better for someone who needs it.
“One of my proudest moments of my working career was convincing an elderly gentleman who was caring for his wife with dementia that he should take some respite care. It was difficult, as he didn’t want to leave her, but eventually he realised that he needed to take care of himself if he was going to take care of her. Another highlight was setting up a scheme in CUH where red trays would be used during meal times to indicate to staff if someone needed extra support during mealtimes. That tiny change made a real difference to people’s comfort in hospital.”