Why hospital radio volunteers still play a crucial role

By Sarah Edwards at

This week is Volunteers Week, an annual celebration organised by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) which recognises the fantastic contribution that millions of volunteers make across the country.
Banbury’s hospital radio station, Radio Horton first launched in July 1964 by local journalists, Ted Hanson MBE and Graham Wilton. The core principles of the station were built on volunteering, with the fundamental aim to provide light entertainment, reassurance and a friend at the bedside to patients in hospital by playing their favourite choices of music.

To this day, that spirit and pride from volunteering lives on within the station’s membership. Volunteer and Saturday morning presenter, Kitty Opal said: “Radio Horton has not only improved my presentational skills but provided me with a platform that has helped my career in the music industry in ways I never imagined. It has built on my interview skills and helped develop some great, lasting friendships.”

Radio Horton Trustee and Programme Coordinator, Sam Smette has volunteered under a variety of roles with the hospital radio station since 2013. Sam thinks the secret to good practice volunteering is to work with your colleagues, and support and encourage their personal development and new ideas.

Sam said: “One key to volunteer retention is engagement and motivation. In this day and age, where organisations often find their resources stretched, it’s important to encourage your volunteers to utilise their existing skills, to maximise those resources, in addition to finding new talent and allowing room for improvement.

“You should absolutely listen, encourage and welcome new ideas and suggestions from members to the board, to help steer the future direction of the organisation. Without the enthusiasm, commitment and dedication from our volunteers, our [board] roles as trustees would be far more challenging”.

Long serving member, Colin Beeby has spent more than 30 years behind the microphone at Radio Horton and shares his volunteering experience. “My inspiration was to share with others, my love for all types of music. I hope this will enlighten and bring a few minutes relief to patients within the Horton Hospital. The difference it has made for me, is making new friends and socialising with them away from the studio environment. At the end of the day, we all have the same passion – to think about patients less fortunate than ourselves.”

One of Radio Horton’s newest members, Will Beech was recently awarded with the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award, a national youth awards scheme which aims to inspire and transform the lives of millions of young people. Part of the scheme involves voluntary work, which Will chose to undertake with Radio Horton.

Will said: “Volunteering at Radio Horton certainly helped develop my technical abilities, as well as made me more personable. I’ve made several friends through hospital radio, helped at community events, and even assisted with redecorating the studios for the station’s anniversary celebrations in 2015. I love getting to play my favourite music, and share it with people who may need to hear a friendly voice.”

In a recent study commissioned by the Hospital Broadcasting Association (HBA) which surveyed some 250 individuals, including patients, staff and hospital radio volunteers across the country, hospital radio was found to have a positive impact on psychosocial health outcomes

Perhaps of paramount importance within hospital radio, is the role of the ward visitor. The unsung heroes of hospital radio, ward visitors are the friendly face-to-face contact, spending their time volunteering on the wards of the Horton Hospital meeting patients, helping them use the bedside entertainment systems and discussing their favourite musical tastes, collecting requests for the evening request programmes.

“Many patients might not see a friendly face, or non-clinical staff member during an entire day they are in hospital. Our ward visitors really do contribute and help bridge that gap. Hospital radio can be a welcome distraction away from the medical business and ward activities.”, added Sam.

For more information on volunteering at Radio Horton, visit the website at: