NHS England has acknowledged the importance of volunteering in the NHS by announcing a £2.3m fund to expand the number of volunteering opportunities in health service.
Speaking at the Health and Care Expo in Manchester on 5 September, NHS England chairman Professor Sir Malcolm Grant said the charity HelpForce will receive the extra funding to work with health organisations, helping them align volunteering activities to their priorities.
HelpForce said the additional funding builds on the work they are currently doing with 15 NHS trusts, five of which had already taken advantage of previous funding they directly received from NHS England.
A further 10 hospitals will now be able to apply for the funding and develop strategic volunteering plans, supported by HelpForce. NHS trust leaders are invited to submit their initial expressions of interest by 8 October via the HelpForce website.
HelpForce’s previous work includes having volunteers encouraging patients to get out of bed, helping with patient discharge and transport or, as in the case of Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust, using ‘bleep volunteers’, who can be instructed by pager or phone to help with simple tasks.
Prof Grant acknowledged that ‘the NHS is quite unusual in comparison with other health services around the world in having an extraordinary contribution made by people who volunteer’.
There are around 78,000 people volunteering in hospitals across the country.
Prof Grant said: ‘We are so compelled and convinced by the role of volunteering that we are announcing today [5 September] an investment of £2.3m in HelpForce to grow the volunteering force across the whole of the NHS.’
‘Historic commitment to volunteering’
Prof Grant specified that having volunteers helping out in hospitals does not mean ‘replacing the full-time workforce of our NHS’ but frees up doctors and nurses time as these people can help ‘with the things they received training on’.
The extra funding announced yesterday is about ‘creating fulfilling roles’, he said, which ultimately benefit the NHS, its patients and staff.
He added: ‘As the NHS develops its ten year plan, there is a fresh opportunity for health leaders to renew our historic commitment to volunteering.’
HelpForce founder and chair Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett said they were ‘delighted’ to be able to work with a greater number of trusts ‘as it will enable more people to benefit from the helping hand of volunteers on their journey through hospital’.
He continued: ‘We know there are inspiring examples of volunteering already taking place and want to learn from these as well as helping to scale them locally, regionally and nationally.’