Promoting Access to Health Services

Promoting Access to Health Services (PATHS) is a volunteer project run by Oxford Homeless Pathways (OxHoP). It provides vital support for vulnerable patients who attend Luther Street Medical Centre (LSMC) and the residents of O’Hanlon House and Julian Housing.

Volunteers accompany patients to health appointments arranged by LSMC’s doctors, and we are currently expanding the project to include accompanying residents to other appointments that will help them to achieve their goals.

We recruit and run training courses for new volunteers approximately twice a year. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please contact Helen Wright, PATHS Volunteer Coordinator, at helenwright@oxhop.org.uk or on 01865 792126, giving your name and contact details, and she will be in touch with you when the next training is being planned.

Alternatively, you can complete an application form to send now, and we will contact you nearer the time of the next training. If you would just like to chat about the possibility of becoming a volunteer, do not hesitate to contact Helen any time.

Why patients need your support

Luther Street Medical Centre is a medical practice that works exclusively with homeless people. Many of its patients lead chaotic lives, suffer from a chronic lack of confidence, and may feel threatened by places and people they aren’t familiar with. As a result, they often do not attend hospital or other health-related appointments arranged for them by Luther Street. This can seriously threaten the already poor health that many of them experience.

Volunteers from the PATHS project help patients to remember their appointments, find their way there and back, stay with them during the appointment if they wish and help the patient feel confident enough to deal with new health staff.

PATHS Plus

PATHS Plus is an expansion of the existing PATHS project. Volunteers for PATHS Plus provide support with a variety of activities and appointments which the residents at O’Hanlon House and Julian Housing need help with. These may include housing or Job Centre appointments, help with learning a new language or to gain a qualification, or even support with completing a fun run.

These clients are at different levels in their ability to manage their lives, but a lack of confidence, recovery from substance misuse, and potentially still chaotic behaviour mean that the support of the volunteers is essential.

Key tasks for PATHS volunteers

  • Contact the patient before the date of the appointment to introduce yourself and agree practical arrangements.
  • Go with them by public transport to the appointment; wait with them before the appointment and while they are being seen; return home with them if requested.
  • Sit in on the appointment if the patient wishes: possibly help by taking notes on what is said and reminding the patient about any questions they wanted to ask the doctor etc.
  • Feed back to the PATHS Volunteer Coordinator any outcomes of the appointment.
  • Attend bi-monthly support meetings with other volunteers and the Volunteer Coordinator.

Skills needed

  • A non-judgmental attitude.
  • Strong communication skills (listening and talking).
  • Organised, conscientious timekeeper.
  • Able to identify and maintain clear boundaries.

Time commitment

Volunteers are asked to be available for three to four hours a week during the working day (though you may not be needed every week). We ask that you make an initial commitment of one year.

Supervision and support

Volunteers report to the Volunteer Coordinator, who organises bi-monthly supervision sessions giving volunteers the opportunity to share their thoughts and experiences.

Benefits to you

  • This is a challenging, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately rewarding role and we hope you will gain both satisfaction and enjoyment from it.
  • You may gain interpersonal skills and experience that will benefit you in your life and work.
  • You will make a valuable contribution to the health and wellbeing of a group of vulnerable and marginalised people.
  • How to apply

    If you would like to apply to be a volunteer, please download the following application pack (Word documents):

    The completed application form and Equal Opportunities monitoring form should be returned by post or email to:

    • Helen Wright, Volunteer Coordinator
      Oxford Homeless Medical Fund
      Luther Street Medical Centre
      PO Box 7
      St Aldates
      Oxford OX1 1TD
  • Or email to helenwright@oxhop.org.uk
  • Criminal records/references required/ISA registration

    Because you will be working with vulnerable people, all volunteers will be asked to:

    • Complete a Disclosure and Barring Service check (DBS).
    • Provide two references from people who have known you in a professional capacity and who can vouch for your reliability and honesty.

    Your suggestions are welcome

    This is an expanding project, and we are looking at ways of expanding our volunteer programme to other areas of OxHoP. We welcome suggestions about how we can improve the running of the project, and also any suggestions you may have for other volunteer roles.