Thousands of people have pledged to volunteer in the NHS next year, a charity has said.
Helpforce reported on Monday that more than 7,000 people have agreed to support NHS patients and staff in 2019. This forms part of a joint campaign launched with the Daily Mail on Saturday to encourage more people help reduce pressures in NHS services
In September, NHS England announced a £2.3m funding envelope for the charity to expand the number of volunteering opportunities in the health service.
Volunteering, a key part of NHS
According to Helpforce, any volunteers over the age of 16 – subject to background and health checks – will be ‘matched in early 2019 to local hospitals’ before undergoing relevant training.
Under the initiative, volunteers will be expected to be available at least three hours a week or one day a month.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘From helping organising blood donor sessions in 1948 to helping ambulance first responders as the NHS turned 70 this summer, volunteers have always been at the heart of the NHS.
‘Tens of thousands of people give up their time in more than 300 different volunteer roles, supporting our patients and freeing NHS staff to focus on highly skilled treatment and care.’
Health think tank The King Fund estimates that there are currently around 78,000 volunteers in NHS trusts, with duties ranging from providing companionship for patients to serving tea around the services.
A report published by The King’s Fund yesterday showed that volunteers play an essential role in health services, as they relieve pressure on frontline staff and improve patient experience.
The report also highlighted that by carrying duties such as picking up medicines and comforting patients, volunteers bring ‘human kindness to a busy ward’.
Commenting on the campaign, NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said: ‘There are a variety of roles across health and care which volunteers can choose, no matter how much time they can give.
‘Every volunteer, no matter what they do, can provide valuable support to an NHS that the public describe as the institution that makes them most proud to be British.
‘As we have seen in many trusts, dedication from volunteers works for everyone – it’s good for patients, good for staff, and good for the volunteers themselves.’