More than 30,000 NHS and Care Volunteer Responders are standing by to boost capacity in health and care this winter and support some of the country’s most vulnerable people.
Volunteers are ready to help the NHS and social care teams with winter priorities, including quicker patient discharge from hospital and the expansion of virtual wards enabling people to be cared for at home. Services such as Pick Up and Deliver and Community Response will allow patients who are medically fit to get home sooner rather than wait in hospital for prescriptions and equipment to be prepared.
Steward Volunteers are already protecting the health of their communities by playing their part in the autumn COVID 19 vaccination programme.
Other Volunteer Responder activities include:
- Check In and Chat: Offering a friendly phone call and a listening ear to those who may be experiencing loneliness or are less able to leave their home to socialise.
- Pick Up and Deliver: Helping to transport medicines or small items of medical equipment from NHS sites to people’s homes and care settings.
- Community Response: Collecting and delivering food shopping and prescriptions to people in the community who are isolated, less mobile, or recovering from illness or treatment.
- Stewarding: Supporting and guiding at vaccination sites to assist the roll-out of the COVID 19 vaccine. The autumn campaign is now up and running.
Volunteer Responders including Abigail Igbayo are already out in their communities helping.
Abigail Igbayo said: “Engaging with and supporting others with friendly phone calls has been an incredibly rewarding experience. The people I’ve connected with often face challenges that affect their wellbeing, and it’s fulfilling to see how much of a positive impact a simple phone call can have.”
Health and care professionals acknowledge the value of this support and say it is making a huge difference to their work and to their patients. Jess Power, Haematology Clinical Nurse Specialist at New Cross Hospital, utilises the NHS and Care Volunteer Responders programme to support outpatients and ensure they have vital medication and equipment, and to support their wellbeing through friendly and encouraging phone calls.
Jess Power said: “We have a cohort of primarily older, housebound patients who are unable to come to the hospital to collect medications and do not have anyone to collect them on their behalf. The Pick Up and Deliver service has been a game-changer for our work and our patients. It ensures that they receive their essential medications promptly, and the feedback from our patients has been overwhelmingly positive. The volunteers have been extremely friendly and helpful.
“I would definitely recommend the service to other health and care professionals.”
Caroline Callaghan, Senior Community Navigator at Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “Our Navigator team are the front door of adult social care. Lots of the people we speak to are experiencing social isolation, often because they are older, less mobile, or are carers for loved ones in their homes, which can be limiting. Check in and Chat is so beneficial because even a quick phone conversation can be a real boost, knowing that there is a person on the other end of the phone who wants to talk and listen to you, is brilliant for a person’s wellbeing.
“It’s so quick and easy to make a Volunteer Responders referral, I regularly remind our team that the programme is there for us to refer in to, and to support the people we’re working with.”
Minister for Care, Helen Whately, said: “Whether it’s picking up medicines, making sure homes have the right equipment or simply offering to have a friendly chat, volunteer responders provide a vital service.
“Volunteers also help people when they’re discharged from hospital, which is good for patients and eases pressure on the NHS, especially during the challenging winter months.
“Volunteering is a great thing to do and can be hugely rewarding so I’d encourage anyone with some spare time to sign up. On the other side of the coin, if you’re a care provider, please take up the offer from our pool of dedicated volunteers.”
Dame Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: “Since its launch in 2020, the NHS and Care Volunteer Responders programme has gone from strength to strength and I know NHS staff across the country will wholeheartedly welcome the support of more than 30,000 volunteers this winter, helping to provide useful services like transporting medicines or equipment, collecting and delivering prescriptions, or lending an ear to people experiencing loneliness via the ‘Check In and Chat’ service.
“The programme is not only a great support for NHS staff and patients but can be incredibly rewarding for the committed volunteers who give their time to support others, with an easy-to-use app and flexible options, so I would encourage anyone interested to check out the NHS Care Volunteer Responders website and consider signing up as a volunteer yourself.”
Catherine Johnstone CBE Chief Executive of Royal Voluntary Service said: “The colder months are the most difficult for many in our communities, particularly older people and those experiencing health challenges, loneliness and isolation. The support of volunteers is, at this time of year, more vital than ever.
“There are so many wonderful volunteers already giving their time to support the health and wellbeing of others, in a range of rewarding roles in hospital settings, vaccination sites, care homes and communities. This winter, we are calling for more people to step forward and join us in helping to protect the people who need us most.”
For information on how to volunteer visit: NHS and Care Volunteer Responders | Supporting Health & Social Care (nhscarevolunteerresponders.org)
Meanwhile, health and care professionals can find out more or request volunteer support for their patients at Request Support Services | NHS and Care Volunteer Responders (nhscarevolunteerresponders.org)