Beatson Cancer Charity’s befriending service hits 1000 phone calls since lockdown launch

Wed 20 Apr 2022


Over 1000 befriending calls have been made by Beatson Cancer Charity volunteers since the start of the pandemic.

The service, which launched in March 2020, was an idea from the volunteering team to help patients with isolation during lockdown.

Since then, it has continued to be a vital support service for patients.

Gillian from Glasgow has been a befriending service user since November 2021, after being diagnosed with cancer last year.

Gillian said: “When I read about the befriending service I thought ‘that would be really good’ because there are often times that I would maybe benefit from talking to someone, but I wouldn’t want to upset family or friends.

“It seemed like it would be a really good opportunity to have something that’s outwith the cancer in some way. Whilst it’s to do with the cancer, it’s a little bit distant because it’s not me talking to my family or friends about it.

“One of my highlight calls was when my befriender was in a café, so when we were having a conversation, I could actually hear the chink of teaspoons on cups and crockery, and there was just something so lovely that it felt very normal, and it was a moment of normality when I was pretty unwell at the time and not getting out and about.

“There was just something lovely about having that opportunity to have that chat with someone who now feels like a friend. It was a real boost for me, she didn’t do it intentionally – it was just the way her day worked out.

“It’s also been useful for me in terms of externally processing if something happens like I get results and I might not want to just splurge out all the words in front of someone I might upset like family or friends, so it’s been nice just to be able to externally process stuff and as a result of that, I’m able to work through it.”

Marty Jackson is one of the befrienders who started making phone calls a year ago – he said it’s helped men who are struggling to open up.

He said: “We were trying to get some more men to come into the service. Men generally find it quite difficult to talk and I think having another man in that space would hopefully help.

“I had one call for quite a while, and then it went up to two – I think now I do three calls a week but it was four for a while. It’s making a huge difference and I absolutely love what I do. Talking to the guys every week and catching up. You think about them all the time. The calls are just amazing, I love it.”

90 clients have benefitted from the service over the last two years from a team of 25 volunteers.

Another volunteer is Sheila Young, who makes weekly befriending calls.

She said: “Lockdown was hard for everybody. You just knew that people going through treatment for cancer were really going to be suffering an awful lot more – especially if they were on their own.

“They look forward to the calls now. They’ve become friends – if they’ve got families I know all about their families. They open up if they’ve got any other health issues. You can say to them ‘get into the doctor about that’. It’s just about being able to help people on that journey.”

Despite being set up during lockdown, the service will continue to run once the volunteering team returns to in-person support due to its success.

Anne Graham, who volunteers for the service, said: “I feel good because I always get positive feedback. I’ll say ‘I’ll call you next week’ and they’ll say ‘oh I look forward to it’. It’s nice to get that as well because they might not have a lot to do that week so a wee phone call is good – it perks them up.”

Talking about the service reaching 1000 phone calls, befriending volunteer Helen Kidd said: “It makes me feel really good. We must be doing something right.

“There’s always that fear at the beginning of a call when somebody’s feeling down. You can always tell from the voice or their attitude on the phone. But if you persevere and listen, at the end of the call you realise that their mood has changed.

“You can always tell when someone’s smiling on the phone, so at the end of the call if you hear that smile you think ‘maybe that’s made a difference’.”

Paul Sheerin, volunteer engagement officer, said: “We started our Telephone Befriending service at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020. This was developed from our ward volunteer model as a way of reaching our current patients, former patients, families and carers as most of our volunteering activities had stopped.

“We are delighted that we have managed to reach so many people over the past two years. Our service offers friendship, companionship, and a chance to develop a good rapport with one of our volunteer team.

“I am personally delighted to be running this service and even when our volunteering services return, we will definitely keep this going.

“To reach 1000 calls already is testament to how well this service is received. I would like to thank our amazing volunteers for all their support in reaching this milestone and also our clients who have been an absolute joy to work with. Here’s to the next 1000 calls.”

If you think you would benefit from our Telephone Befriending Service, please contact Paul on 0141 212 0505 or email