Cliff Puddy, from Burnham-on-Sea, has volunteered with the county’s independent health and care champion Healthwatch Somerset for the last five years and is now urging others to consider joining him as a volunteer for the organisation.
73-year-old Cliff tragically lost his leg when he was 33 years old in a car accident in the county but after six months in a coma and many more months of physiotherapy and rehabilitation he was able to return to work as a MOD aircraft inspector.
Years later whilst he was working in the USA at the age of 55, Cliff suffered the first of two strokes, which then meant he was unable to work due to initial speech problems and mobility issues.
Cliff says he has had both good and bad experiences of local health and care services through his ill-health. He joined local feedback and engagement groups to help others like him have their voice heard.
“If it hadn’t been for volunteering, I would be sitting in the house staring at the same four walls and with no real purpose. At one point I was so low I would have taken my own life. Being able to get out of the house and meet people who treat me as a human being and not a cripple means all the difference. Volunteering really saved my life.”
Healthwatch Somerset, the county’s independent health and care champion, has launched a campaign to recruit more volunteers to help its small staff team gather feedback from the public.
A wide variety of volunteering roles are on offer. People can visit health and care venues to speak to patients, staff and families about their experiences and also act as an ambassador for the organisation at local events and meetings.
Dr Sara Nelson from Healthwatch Somerset said:
“Volunteers like Cliff are at the heart of everything we do, from talking to people about their experiences of local health and care services, to sitting on the board of directors.
“Whatever your background, we are keen to hear from you if you think you could fill one of these roles. People can make a real difference to their communities and help to shape their local health and care services.”
All volunteers with Healthwatch Somerset go through a full training and personal development programme. They are given a comprehensive volunteer handbook and welcome pack, as well as having access to an online volunteer portal with up to date policies and procedures. Out of pocket expenses are also reimbursed.
“I would recommend volunteering to anyone who wants to help people have their voice heard on the way health and care services are run locally. You really can make a difference. For example, I have attended every Stroke Club in Somerset to find out the issues people are talking about. Many years ago stroke patients were saying they didn’t receive good care at hospital.
“These findings were taken back to the hospital trust who then introduced an early discharge procedure to allow stroke patients to get 12 weeks of physiotherapy at home rather than in hospital.”
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Healthwatch Somerset is the county’s independent health and care champion. We exist to ensure that people are at the heart of care. Our dedicated team of staff and volunteers listen to what people like about local health and care services, and what could be improved. These views are then shared with the decision-making organisations in the county, so together we can make a real difference.