The Engage Programme Salisbury District Hospital

ContactLizzy Goad, Clinical Psychology, Salisbury District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
AddressSalisbury District Hospital, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP2 8BJ

What is being done?

The Engage Programme Salisbury District HospitalThe Department of Clinical Psychology at Salisbury District Hospital has developed a Programme ‘Engage’ which is designed to support the psychological needs of older adults in hospital. The programme was initially designed because the research we did recognised that older people often find the transition from home to hospital difficult. They can often find the lack of familiarity, change in routine, emphasise on their medical condition testing and this seems to have a negative impact on their mood, often making them feel anxious or depressed. The hospital environment can also make older people feel like they are losing their autonomy and sense of identity which contributes to low mood and problems with self confidence and esteem.

‘Engage’ uses specially trained psychology volunteers to help support the psychological needs of older adults during their hospital stay and work to alleviate some of the problems these people often encounter. These volunteers are all supervised and trained by the Clinical Psychology Team. The training consists of monthly sessions on topics such as depression, anxiety, dementia, cognitive impairment, communication difficulties and communication skills. This means they can not only recognise these problems as they occur and support people in the most appropriate way, but they can also communicate on to the appropriate staff member should a problem be detected. The volunteers are all supervised regularly which means they are continually updating their skills and learning.

So far, ‘Engage’ covers 9 wards across the hospital and intends on covering the remaining wards shortly. We see between 80-100 patients a week. ‘Engage’ has developed links with Speech and Language Therapy, the Chaplaincy and the hospital dementia champions. This has enabled us to link with specialist training for our volunteers and more support for the patients. In relation to dementia patients, our aim is to ensure that any dementia patient or patient with mild cognitive impairment can have access to the support provided for our volunteers during their stay in hospital.

What is new and different?

The programme is designed specifically to meet the psychological needs of older adults
Volunteers are regularly trained and receive supervision like other members of staff
Volunteers have specialist training (as mentioned above) which enable them to work effectively with the older adults population

What difference does this seem to be making?

Our service evaluation looked at the effects of the volunteer interventions on 23 participants (13 males and 10 females, average age 80.4 years, SD=9.7) and found a significant reduction in their level of depression pre and post assessment. Questionnaire studies conducted showed an improvement in satisfaction with activities available on the ward, the ward environment and the care received on the ward.

We are currently conducting further research in which we have implemented a control group alongside the intervention group in order to specifically obtain whether the volunteer interventions can reduce levels of depression, anxiety and also reduce length of stay.


‘The volunteers have been invaluable support and assistance to patients of mine…’

Occupational Therapist, Spinal Unit

‘It has been an absolute joy to have the volunteers on the ward-we have had a lot of positive feedback from our patients. Fabulous!’

Senior sister, Downton Ward

‘It’s good to be acknowledged, we really appreciate what you’ve done’

Patient, Burns Unit

‘It’s so nice that you came over and talked to me.’

Patient, Winterslow