Friends' gift to South Tyneside's newborns as group shares 70th birthday with NHS

As the NHS prepares to mark its 70th birthday a group of dedicated hospital volunteers in South Tynesode is sharing the same milestone.

Friday, 29th June 2018, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 29th June 2018, 2:53 pm
Win Patterson, Maureen Young, Ann Thompson and Sue Goddard, of the League of Friends, with some of the teddies

To celebrate the anniversary on July 5, the League of Friends is presenting every baby born at South Tyneside District Hospital in June with a special teddy bear.

League chairman Maureen Young said: “We are so proud to share our birthday with the fantastic NHS which has done so much for the health of the nation over 70 years. We’d like to say a huge thank you to each and every one of our volunteers down the years who have played their part in helping us to help our local hospitals. We are still getting requests to join us and we’re look forward to the next 70 years.”

The Friends are one of the oldest voluntary organisations in the NHS.

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It began in 1948 when a group formed the South Shields Hospitals Voluntary Aids Association, with each member paying a one shilling membership fee. The aim was to help provide comforts for patients in hospitals.

Bed jackets and bed socks were popular items and members spent a lot of time knitting to keep up with demand.

The group also provided entertainment, with members wheeling a harmonium on to wards and conducting sing-songs and religious services.

In its first year, the association made £1,187, receiving donations from 10 local companies. In March 1981 its name changed to The League of Friends of South Tyneside Hospitals.

The group currently has about 100 members. The League estimates that over the years its volunteers have raised well in excess of £500,000.

Earlier this year, the volunteers gave almost £11,000 to buy vital equipment for the Cardiology Department at South Tyneside District Hospital in the shape of three temporary pacing boxes and seven blood pressure monitors. Their most recent donation of almost £2,000 was used to buy three new chairs to improve the comfort of patients having blood tests in the Phlebotomy department.

Neil Mundy, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust chairman, said: “Our League of Friends volunteers are truly remarkable. They have touched the hearts of so many South Tyneside families with their enthusiasm and commitment to supporting our local hospitals over so many years. It is very fitting that the League shares the same anniversary year as the NHS; they are both well-loved institutions which play a vital role in people’s lives.”