HINCHINGBROOKE Hospital bosses say they want to increase the number of volunteering opportunities.

The current pool of volunteers is just over 160-strong but was nearer 500 at its peak.

Hinchingbrooke's estates and facilities director, Mark Cammies, said numbers had "erroded" over the years but recruiting more was now a priority.

A new post of volunteer co-ordinator is being advertised, someone paid to oversee the management of those who donate their time. "Last week, we secured funding to employ a volunteer co-ordinator," said Mr Cammies. "This is how important to Hinchingbrooke volunteers are." New voluntary roles are due to be created, as previously reported in The Hunts Post, such as 'meet and greeters' for the main entrance.

There will also be more chances to help out on wards.

Lorraine Szeremeta, director of nursing, midwifery and quality, said she wanted to see volunteers much more involved with patients.

"A lot of patients with dementia need someone to sit with them, do reminiscence therapy with them," she said. "This is not about taking away from the role of a nurse. It's about adding something that was not there before."

Other roles, she added, could include anything from helping to feed patients to filling water jugs. Anyone coming forward will go through an induction process and receive training. A new base for volunteers is also due to be created as part of the changes to the front of the hospital.

Hospital chaplain Scott Watts, who is responsible for supporting volunteers, said he had arranged sessions for volunteers in September. He said there were numerous offers of help each week, adding: "It's important that our volunteer services continue to evolve and both they and we are excited about the new opportunities to move the service to become much more patient-facing."