NHS Volunteer Responders scheme extended to support the public and NHS staff over winter

Friday, 06 November 2020

Volunteers have supported with a million ‘acts of kindness’

1 million tasks
People who need help as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) will be able to access support for simple but vital tasks over the coming months thanks to the successful NHS Volunteer Responders programme. The extension comes as NHS staff continue to deal with a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

The NHS Volunteer Responders programme was launched in partnership with Royal Voluntary Service and GoodSAM in March. More than a million tasks - including shopping and medication deliveries, lifts to medical appointments or telephone chats to combat loneliness – have already been completed by the 360,000 NHS Volunteer Responders who have put themselves on duty.

With the health service working hard to meet the combined challenge of winter pressures and second waves of COVID-19, a national lockdown now in place and new Government advice issued to those most at risk, the scheme is now being extended until the end of March.

To help the growing numbers who need support, all volunteer responders who signed up in March are being urged to switch themselves ‘on duty’ over winter. Opportunities are also available for new volunteers across the country to sign up at nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk

The programme will also be expanded to offer volunteers new ways in which they can support their communities and NHS staff, including helping to run large flu vaccination clinics as part of the NHS’ largest ever winter protection drive.

With a record 30million people eligible for a free NHS jab this year, and extra measures in place to prevent spread of the virus, GPs, nurses and other health professionals are taking new approaches to flu clinics, including using large local venues like sports halls and marquees to deliver hundreds of vaccinations in one session.

Volunteers would assist clinical staff by helping with transporting patients to venues, checking and logging people’s details when they arrive, and stewarding to ensure social distancing and hygiene measures are observed. Appropriate training, PPE and supervision would be given to ensure the safety of staff, volunteers and patients.

"This programme has been a real success, with tens of thousands of people already benefiting from more than a million simple but important acts of kindness from Volunteer Responders.

"NHS staff are working hard to ensure those who need it can access expert care over the coming months, and NHS Volunteer Responders will continue to play an important role supporting them and their local communities, including helping to deliver the largest ever NHS flu vaccination drive.

"It’s vital that everyone plays their part in the fight against COVID by following the national lockdown guidance and the specific new advice from the Government on keeping yourself safe if you are in a vulnerable group, so if you need support to do that – whether that’s getting food or prescriptions delivered or just a friendly chat to ward off loneliness – we would urge you to get in touch through the free hotline.

"And for those who can spare a little time each week to help people in their community and support NHS staff, there are lots of opportunities to do your bit as an NHS Volunteer Responder. I would especially urge any Volunteer Responders who paused their volunteering after the first lockdown to rejoin us now."

Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England
In a survey, 9 out of 10 (89%) people who requested help were very satisfied with the support the programme gave them.

With the number of requests for help increasing, for the first time since it was launched in March the scheme will open to new volunteers, as well as urging active volunteers to switch themselves on duty over winter.

"I’m immensely proud of and grateful to our existing volunteers who have supported society’s most vulnerable through the first phase of the COVID response. With winter ahead they and new recruits will be vital in supporting NHS staff to keep people safe and well.

"The fantastic thing about the NHS Volunteer Responder Scheme is its flexibility. Volunteers can simply mark themselves as on-duty via the scheme’s app whenever they have free time. I am encouraging volunteers to remain on-duty to continue supporting their communities over the coming months."

Catherine Johnstone CBE, Chief Executive for Royal Voluntary Service
Those who apply will have the opportunity to support their community with six roles:

  • Community Response Volunteer: to collect and deliver shopping, medication or other essential supplies. This role also includes support at vaccination sites with stewarding patients.
  • Community Response Plus Volunteer: to collect and deliver shopping, medication or other essential supplies for patients with cognitive impairments and/or significant vulnerabilities.
  • Patient Transport Volunteer: Providing transport for patients who are medically fit to attend routine medical appointments.
  • NHS Transport Volunteer: to transport equipment, supplies and/or medication between NHS services and sites. It may also involve assisting pharmacies with medication delivery. This role can also help Local Resilience Networks with transportation and delivery of items such as food parcels. This role also includes support at vaccination sites with stewarding patients
  • Check In and Chat Volunteer: volunteers to provide telephone support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness or who need moral support.
  • Check In and Chat Plus Volunteer: this is a peer-support role, provided by responders also clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. Regular telephone support and a ‘listening ear’ is offered to clients who are experiencing challenges as a result of coronavirus.

Annemarie Holden, 31, from Rotherham spotted the NHS Volunteer Responders recruitment advert on Facebook and was excited to sign up.

"The first thing that struck me when I first logged on was just how high the demand for support was. It’s clear that going into winter, people are still really needing support and it’s rewarding to be part of the volunteer army. It’s so heart-warming when people tell you how much you have helped them and I feel proud to have volunteered during this incredibly difficult time."

Annemarie
Once they have signed up to the scheme and been verified, volunteers can put themselves on duty in their spare time and select tasks through a simple to use smartphone app provided by GoodSAM.

"I would like to thank all of our NHS Volunteer Responders, for stepping forwards to help time and time again. Every act of kindness has made a huge difference in helping someone during this difficult time.

"Our volunteers have generously given their time to support in so many ways, and by doing so have identified vulnerable people who otherwise no one knew about.

"This winter will undoubtedly be hard for many, and the community spirit of our volunteers will help as we continue our fight against this virus, including by supporting clinical staff as the NHS delivers the largest flu vaccination programme ever."

Helen Whately, Minister for Care

"GoodSAM is very proud to have recruited and deployed volunteers to complete one million tasks during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the largest technologically coordinated resourcing of volunteers ever achieved. We believe micro-volunteering like this enables people to help their local communities in a way and at a time convenient for them, so please do register if you can."

Mark Wilson, Co-Founder of GoodSAM


Those living in England are encouraged to check the NHS Volunteer Responders website to volunteer or see how they can get support for themselves or others or by calling 0808 196 3646.

For further information

Royal Voluntary Service is one of the largest voluntary service organisations in Britain. We inspire and enable volunteers to help people in need in hospitals, at home and in the community.

Our volunteers improve patient experience in hospital, aid recovery after a stay on ward, help older people support themselves at home, stay fit and active and build meaningful social connections.

Royal Voluntary Service supports volunteers to run services in the community such as lunch and dining clubs, physical activity classes, craft, gardening and other hobby groups. We work collaboratively with other charities, social care providers and the NHS to help create a society where everyone feels valued and involved.

The charity is one of the UK’s largest hospital retailers with volunteer-run shops, cafés and trolley services providing tea and company to patients, hospital staff and visitors.

To become a local volunteer search for volunteering opportunities in your area. Or help make a difference by making a secure online donation.

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