Ann takes the health route to volunteering

From Ann Elliot, Governance Officer, Wales Co-operative Centre

I’ve volunteered for lots of things over the years but my current volunteering opportunity came about by chance. About 2 years ago I came across an advert for the Cardiff & Vale University Health Board (C&VUHB) who were looking to recruit lay members for their Individual Patient Funding Request (IPFR) panel.  The advert read a bit like a governance role involving attending meetings, analysing complex information and processing sensitive and confidential data to make difficult and potentially contentious decisions.

With a long career in HR I felt I could tick those boxes and I had recently reduced my work commitments so that I could “do other things”.  So I put in an expression of interest.  I suppose my motivation for doing so was twofold:

  • The desire to establish a network of interests outside of conventional work
  • My personal commitment to ‘give back’ in some way.

It turns out the recruitment process is quite extensive for a role like this, which should re-assure the public that those involved haven’t taken on the role lightly.  There was a panel interview, DBS checks and 2 days of training before I was able to join the panel.

There are 4 lay members for the Cardiff & Vale IPFR panel and 2 of us attend each meeting – which means that the commitment is about 12 meetings per year.  Each panel meeting requires 2 to 3 hours of preparation and meetings last about 2 hours, but sometimes the information is quite complex and requires significantly more preparation time for a lay person like me.  The information presented to the panel is often quite technical and of a scientific nature and strict guidelines are set out for the applicants to follow and for the panel to use when considering applications.  We are required as a panel to reach a decision on which we all agree and to articulate how and why we reached that decision.  It’s often challenging for me and I’m still very much getting to grips with the terminology and process but my panel colleagues encourage discussion and questions which always makes me feel I am contributing to the process and learning at the same time.

When we hear the term ‘volunteering’ we often think of very practical roles like helping at a Scout group, grounds maintenance in the local park or reading support at a school.  My volunteering role is quite different but I think it helps to illustrate that there are all sorts of roles out there, to suit all sorts of different skill sets and interests.

I would say go on broaden your horizons and find yourself a challenge in the process.

This blog was written for Volunteers’ Week, a national campaign running between June 1st and 7th.

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