A SCHEME which has meant 7,780 hours of care has been given to socially-isolated people has celebrated its fifth birthday.

The St. Michael’s Hospice and Odiham Cottage Hospital (OCH) Befriending Service celebrated the fifth anniversary with a party at Odiham Cottage Hospital on Monday.

The Befriending Service matches volunteer befrienders with patients, who both enjoy a variety of activities from visiting garden centres and going shopping to just enjoying a chat, a cup of tea and maybe a game of cards.

The Hook Singers entertained guests before tea and cake were served.

The party was attended by Sharyn Wheale, chair of Hart District Council, volunteers, and patients.

Iain Cameron, chief executive officer at St. Michael’s Hospice, said: “Since 2014, this service has made over 4,500 visits to members of our community, amounting to more than an incredible 7,780 hours of care, of friendship, of trips out, of games played, tea drunk, support and conversation.

“These seemingly small things can bring a sense of empowerment, of shared experience, of friendship, of no longer being alone.

“We must also recognise though that our patients bring so much to the lives of our volunteers and we are delighted that they allow us to share their lives.”

Since 2014, 205 referrals have been made to the service and there are currently 53 volunteers visiting 53 patients and six patients on the telephone befriending list.

Patients are matched with a volunteer by a befriending coordinator who meets them after their referral to assesses their needs and find out as much about them as they can before making the best possible match.

Those interested in becoming a befriender should contact Maria Bryant, befriending coordinator, on 01256 393609 or och.befriending@stmichaelshospice.org.uk.