A ‘DAD’S Army’-style health workforce has been proposed in the Borders to help address patient needs at the region’s main hospital.

‘Safe Hands’ was established a year ago following concerns around staff shortages at Borders General Hospital.

It has been driven forward by Dr Andrew Docherty, who worked at the health facility for 15 years.

Set to be registered as a community interest company, Safe Hands is looking to establish a voluntary workforce of retired former NHS staff, together with newly-trained volunteers seeking to embark on a career in the health service.

Members would assist with the basic needs of patients during the day-to-day running of wards.

Dr Docherty said: “We would like to begin to make a small but meaningful contribution to the immediate and long-term imperative of reigniting and fostering vocations at all levels of nursing care locally, from ‘care assistants’ to registered nurses, and to provide an opportunity for the many willing retired people who would value the chance to do some voluntary service locally in the health service.

“We have already received interest both from potential volunteers and those willing to provide a brief but relevant training course.

“The certificated course, which would include relevant first aid principles, in addition [to] the period of service could add to a young person’s CV and give a boost to the confidence of the many young men and women with excellent caring attributes to gain confidence in care settings.”

The problems facing NHS Borders have been well-documented.

Chief executive Ralph Roberts told a Scottish Government committee in March that delayed discharge was a “very significant” issue for the health board, while rising energy costs were stretching financial resources.

He also said that social care workers have shared that staff retention and recruitment are key issues.

NHS Borders recently asked those feeling “under the weather” to stay away from the hospital, while it publishes regular updates about the emergency department being at capacity.

Dr Docherty added: “We hope to host a large public event before Christmas and begin at a local level [with] what we hope will be repeated throughout the nation in the coming year. We believe this is an urgent matter and sincerely hope that everyone will find the courage and support to promote our aims.

“We wish to stress that while a voluntary element of care provision is healthy in society, that it should not allow any diminution in the zeal to recruit adequate trained and paid staff as an emergency.”

An NHS Borders spokesperson said: “We welcome volunteers and are actively rebuilding our successful volunteering programme, following the pandemic.

“We have also had great uptake of our retire and return schemes attracting former NHS staff into roles to support the delivery of care across NHS Borders.”

To contact Dr Docherty email him at molendinar1000@gmail.com or call 07790 101977.