Many people using hospitals, GP surgeries and medical centres benefit from the efforts of hard-working volunteers, the importance of whom is recognised with a special category in the South Wales Argus Health & Care Awards. Sue Bradley meets 2019's Volunteer of the Year to discover what inspired him to give his time to help others using the Ty Siriol Unit.

ALAN Hiatt’s life changed beyond recognition a decade ago when his wife Christine was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 51.

Over the following four years, the father-of-two from Llanyravon was a full time carer, and when his wife Christine was admitted to the Hafan Deg Ward at the County Hospital in Pontypool, part of the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board’s Ty Siriol Older Mental Health Unit, he would go along every day and make himself useful.

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Christine Hiatt

Mr Hiatt learned a lot about dementia throughout his wife’s illness, something that the Hafan Deg Ward team recognised and sought to put to good use when they asked him to draw on his experiences to help others come to terms with their loved ones’ conditions, as well as provide practical advice on matters such as benefits and other forms of support.

“With dementia you’re in a bubble and you’re always conscious of the opinions and judgements of others regarding the person you care for,” he explains.

“It’s very personal. The team wanted me to help break down the stigma.”

Mr Hiatt's association with the unit did not end when his wife died at the age of 55 in 2015; instead it entered a new phase, during which he joined forces with his family and friends at Croesyceiliog Rugby Club, at which he is the chairman, to raise thousands of pounds for new equipment.

“During her time on the Hafan Deg Ward, Christine benefited from a special chair, a bit like a cocoon, that helped her to feel calm,” he explains.


“We set about raising £2,000 to buy one of these chairs and ended up with just under £10,000, with which we were able to fund two chairs along with a pergola and other things for the hospital garden, and some televisions.”

Since then the voluntary work has continued, both in terms of fundraising for the unit and other parts of the ABUHB, and the practical and moral support provided to the families of people using the Ty Siriol Unit.

Mr Hiatt is a two-time ‘Volunteer of the Year’ in the South Wales Argus Health & Care Awards and says he’s pleased to give something back.

“The care Christine received was absolutely unbelievable,” recalls Mr Hiatt, who previously worked for a photocopier company. “Dementia didn’t make Christine nasty, but she was on the go all the time and I was happy to lend a hand when she was in hospital.

“Christine and I were married for 35 years: she was just 4ft 12ins and a bundle of joy. Everybody who knew her loved her. She was intelligent too, with a master’s degree and a senior job with the health authority. We had many fantastic years together and two lovely children.

“I do this voluntary work because I thoroughly enjoy it and because it’s given me an outlet and a way to give something back to the wonderful people who looked after my wife.”

  • Do you know a volunteer who dedicates hours of their time to help others in health or care settings? Nominate them for an award today by visiting: Don’t forget the closing date for nominations is Monday, October 26.

​Hospital is a pinnicle of care and compassion

ST Joseph’s Hospital is the sponsor of the Special Recognition Nursing Award at the South Wales Argus Health & Care Awards 2020.

Nursing is not just about caring; it is about championing excellence at every stage of a patient’s journey. This award will shout about the skilled and dedicated individuals who make up this amazing profession.

For the nurses who work at St Joseph’s Hospital, it’s a vocation. Everything they do is about providing the very best care which is clinically outstanding, personalised and delivered in a welcoming and warm manner.

The hospital is recognised for its balanced approach to nursing, giving the nursing team the time they need to provide an exceptional standard of care to their patients.

This has been an incredibly challenging year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Officially a green site, St Joseph’s Hospital is not treating any Covid-19 patients, but continues to work in partnership with the NHS, providing capacity during this difficult time.

Jan Green, director of clinical services, explains: “Every patient is an individual so the care we give and the service we provide reflects this approach.

"It’s important to us that everyone staying at the hospital feels comfortable, relaxed and in control of their recovery.

"Taking responsibility for their recovery helps patients recover faster and enjoy life again.

"We employ people who are caring, have high moral and ethical standards and believe in our values.

"We invest in our people, they are our most valuable resource which is why we are sponsoring the Special Recognition Nursing Award at this year’s Health and Care Awards.”

For those of you looking for a rewarding career in healthcare, we will take care of you as if you were one of our family. St Joseph’s Hospital was founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Annecy in 1946, two years before the birth of the NHS.

The team share the values of humility, kindness and respect for others.

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