The Friends of Dorset County Hospital group was founded in 1956 to provide ‘comfort and help’ to patients in the old Dorchester Hospital.

Today’s modern hospital is very different, and that original wording now sounds very old fashioned, but the original purpose remains at the core of the organisation.

The ‘Friends’ is a charity and, with the exception of its manager, is entirely run by more than 120 volunteers and steered by their trustees, who are also volunteers.

With the profits they are able to provide facilities and equipment that are not always available through NHS funding, and are valued by both staff and patients. They run both a shop in the hospital as well as the trolley service to patients on wards.

Friends-of-DCH

They also have a fundraising team initially formed to help raise £25,000 for Gully’s Place, a suite of three rooms providing support for children with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition, and their families.

They achieved this in 2016 and Gully’s Place is now up and running. Buoyed by this success, the Friends are now in the process of raising £25,000 for the hospital’s new Cancer Appeal.

So far they have raised £10,000. When the new suite is opened it will avoid the need for cancer patients from Dorchester and the surrounding area to travel to Poole, so will be of great benefit at a difficult time.

To raise funds, the Friends hold various popular fund-raising events such as bingo evenings, raffles, book sales, a tea dance and a fashion show. Back in August they held a barn dance which proved hugely successful and they have already booked another date for this year – so keep an eye out for the publicity. They also held their first Christmas Fayre last year, which proved to be highly popular and raised £1,550 on the day.

As well as the larger sums raised for Gully’s Place and the Cancer Appeal, the Friends were very fortunate in receiving two legacies for more than £75,000.

The first was used for dementia and elderly care on Barnes Ward. The second was topped up to £100,000 for the Cancer Outpatient Procedure Suite. Other recent gifts to the hospital have included medical wheelchairs (£4,672), furniture and equipment for Diagnostic Imaging (£1,800), and £27,800 for new technology to treat rectal cancer.

Why not become a volunteer? The Friends needs more than 120 volunteers a week to work in the shop, on the trolleys, and help the fundraising team. It can be a good way to give something back to the hospital and also make friends with other ‘Friends’!

The minimum commitment is one shift (around three hours) a fortnight. The oldest volunteer (naming no names!) is aged 86.

Friends’ manager Sharon Merritt said, “In 1999 I saw an advert for volunteers at the hospital so I came in for a chat and started two days later!

“I thoroughly enjoyed volunteering and in 2005, when a part-time opportunity came up I applied and, as they say, the rest is history! I am privileged to have such a fabulous team of volunteers.”

There are a number of ways in which you can support the Friends’ work and so help the hospital. You can:

  •          Visit the Friends’ shop (South Wing, level 1)
  •          Make a donation
  •          Attend a fundraising event
  •          Donate raffle prizes
  •          Donate books for sale
  •          Join the Friends for an annual subscription of £5
  •          Hold a fundraising event
  •          Leave a legacy

For more information visit friendsofdorsetcountyhospital.co.uk, email friends@dchft.nhs.uk or call 01305 255896. We would love to hear from you.

Sharon Merritt

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