Two in five hospital patients never have any visitors – and take longer to recover than those who do, according to new research.
Nurses told the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) that patients are less likely to be mobile if no one comes to see them.
They also rely more on hospital staff, have fewer conversations and are less likely to follow medical advice.
Susan Webster, a senior charge nurse at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, said you “can’t put a price on the value of social interaction, especially for our older patients”.
RVS, which spoke to 200 hospital nurses, said more effort needs to be put into supporting isolated patients.
“Volunteers offer a professional support service, encouraging mental stimulation, physical activity, and can play a significant role in both mental and physical recovery,” said its director of commissioned services, Sam Ward.
“It is vital that hospitals work together with volunteer service providers to make sure that patients across the country are able to access this support.”
Ms Webster said volunteers “make a real difference to the ward and we are lucky to have a dedicated volunteer team”.
She added: “They provide company for the patients, some of whom don’t get any visitors and can be left feeling isolated.”
RVS gives assistance with meals, patient transport, trolley services and volunteer-run cafes and shops.