Northwick Park Hospital is piloting the use of Youth Buddies to help connect with troubled teenagers being treated in A&E.
The reluctance of many young people to engage with adults and authority figures provides a role for volunteers like 20-year-old Zara Kassum, who have the time to sit down and chat with young patients about anything troubling them.
Zara, a second year university student, spends several hours a week working with young patients identified by hard-pressed nursing staff.
Zara said: “Young people often find it easier to talk with people closer to their own age and open up about things that may be troubling them, such as bullying, trouble at home, relationship problems, gang activity or mental health problems.
“We work closely with A&E staff and the St Giles Trust, a youth charity, based in the department. It is about giving young people the time to talk about what is bothering them and there are often tell-tale signs you can pick up on like prolonged absence from school, physical injuries or a reluctance to be a home.
Northwick Park Hospital ensure all the buddies undergo safeguarding training and mental health First Aid.
Zara has aspirations to become a doctor herself. She added: “I come from a large family and spent a long time looking after my late grandmother which is where my interest in healthcare comes from. I really enjoy being a youth buddy and feeling that in some small way I am helping make a difference.“