Meet Myles Brennan – the first veteran volunteer recruit who is visiting hospital wards to check in on patients who have also served in the Armed Forces.

He has joined South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s team of volunteers, which help colleagues in a range of roles including dementia friends, navigators, dining time helpers and hospital radio team members.

Myles served as a Private – or Rifleman – after signing up at the Army recruitment office in Fowler Street in his hometown of South Shields in September 1963 aged 17.

He became a member of the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry, then Third Light Infantry from 1968 following a reorganisation of regiments.

During his time he was posted in British Honduras, now known as Belize, Singapore, Malaysia and Northern Ireland. He left his full time role in 1970 and went on to serve as a reservist for six years.

Away from the Army, his career saw him work in the shipyards, working at Swan Hunter in Wallsend as a welder, in security at Gateway supermarket in Washington and for a security firm covering Gateshead and South Shields.

Myles is a familiar face to colleagues at the Trust.

He joined the NHS in 2002, first working to monitor the CCTV at South Tyneside District Hospital, then spent eight years on the reception of the Ingham Wing up until his retirement in 2020.

Myles, who still lives in South Shields, became a widower in 1994, when he lost his wife Victoria when she was 47.

He met his partner Carol in 2000 when they both worked for Asda. Carol has two sons and a daughter and the couple are grandparents of four.

Myles Brennan during his army days

In recent weeks he has returned to the hospital as a volunteer. He has joined Armed Forces Healthcare Lead Tobi Oladipo to help ensure those who have served know about all the support they are entitled to, as well as offer a friendly face and listening ear to patients who fancy a chat.

Myles has previously volunteered as a navigator and greeter at the Nightingale Hospital in Washington when it was set up as a COVID-19 vaccination hub.

He was looking for a chance to help out close to home when he found out the Trust was welcoming new volunteers.

He joins the volunteer team as the NHS marks #MilitaryMarch, a social media campaign which celebrates the contribution of the Armed Forces community to the service.

The 77-year-old said: “I’ve just started out, but I’ve been around the hospital with Tobi a few times and visited one old boy who was also in the Armed Forces to see if he needed help with anything.

“Having the same background means we have something to talk about from the off and it’s always nice to see someone who has also served and have that shared background.

“It’s also been nice to be back in the hospital and lots of people have stopped me to say hello and catch up.”

Tobi said: “It’s good to have Myles on board as our first veterans volunteer and we look forward to welcoming others.

“He’s already shown he’s able to make those connections and reassure those from our Armed Forces community that we are here to help them and make sure they get all the support available to them.

“Being able to chat to someone as a peer and to know they have had similar experiences and careers helps the patient. It can help lift their spirits and we hope it makes their stay a better experience.

“It might be that they went in a very different direction to Myles or whoever calls in to have chat with them, but that common ground and mutual respect goes a long way.

“If any other veterans would like to find out more, we’d be very keen to hear from them.”

Tobi and Myles’ work is part of the Trust’s wider support for the Armed Forces community as a provider of healthcare, as well as an employer. It is recognised as an Armed Forces Friendly employer and a member of Step Into Health, which is a scheme to help those leaving the forces into a career in the NHS.

In 2022, it was re-awarded its Gold Employer Recognition (ERS) status, having been the first NHS organisation in the region to achieve this in 2017. In the same year became a Veterans Aware Trust, showing its commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant.

It supports reservists, offering paid leave so they can undertake annual training, exercises and tours.

More details about the role and other volunteering opportunities with the Trust can be found by clicking here.

Further information about working for the Trust as a veteran or reservist is available by clicking here.