A Midland hospital will launch a major campaign tomorrow to find a "new generation" of volunteers to run vital support services over the next five years.

University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Queen Elizabeth and Selly Oak hospitals, already has 300 people who regularly help in cafes, shops and patient support centres.

But hospital bosses are keen to swell the army of volunteers to more than 1,000 by 2011 and are appealing to people from all walks of life, whether they are former patients, retired staff or local residents, to get involved.

Open days are being held to illustrate how volunteers can make a big difference to patients, staff and visitors, and the various opportunities there are across the trust.

Volunteers give their time for various reasons - to give something back to the community, to gain experience and new skills, or to progress their studies.

Marcia Jackson, who lives in Edgbaston, has been a cancer information adviser at the Patrick Room at the QE's cancer centre since 2003.

The 46-year-old probably understands better than most what they are going through as she was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago.

"I found a very small lump and, although my GP couldn't detect it and it didn't show up on a mammogram or scan, my consultant at City Hospital said I was lucky as it had been caught early," she said.

"As a result I had a lumpectomy and under-went ten sessions of radiotherapy at the QE during 2000, when the Patrick Room was just being built.

"I wasn't fortunate enough to benefit from the support and advice patients can get there now, because there was nothing like that. I had to go to the Whitehouse in Dudley to meet cancer groups to talk things through.

"Last year I had my five-year all-clear, which was quite emotional, so I do empathise with many of the people I see here once a week.

"I would urge anyone with spare time to consider volunteering; it is incredibly satisfying and a great opportunity to meet new people and develop new skills. We need people all over the hospital, but we're in dire need of drivers for patient transport services."