Millions Of People Ready To Gift Their Time To Support NHS

  • Over half of adults believe giving time to the NHS is as important as finance (1)
  • Royal Voluntary Service and HelpForce strike up new strategic partnership to maximise the power of voluntary service across the NHS

It may be about to turn 70, but the nation’s love of the National Health Service remains as strong as ever, with millions of Britons (2) saying they would consider stepping-up to support the service in what continues to be a challenging time.

New research conducted by YouGov for national volunteering organisation, Royal Voluntary Service, finds over one fifth of adults (22%) in Great Britain would consider volunteering to support the NHS. And if just half of them were to do so, for two hours a month, this would equate to more than 16.5 million working days a year being donated to support doctors and nurses. (3).

Over two thirds (67%) of the 2001 respondents polled believe volunteers have a vital role to play in supporting the NHS and more than half (58%) agree giving time to the NHS is equally as important as providing finance. Our continued love affair with the NHS was also evident, with the study revealing 87% of us believe the NHS is a national treasure and should be treated as such. Indeed, the research estimates around 4% of adults in Britain are already volunteering in some capacity to support the service.

The findings come as Royal Voluntary Service announces an exciting new strategic partnership with HelpForce, an organisation led by Sir Tom Hughes-Hallett, on a mission to integrate volunteers into the heart of our NHS over the next five years.

Catherine Johnstone, chief executive, Royal Voluntary Service said: “Our NHS is envied across the world and with continued developments in medicine helping us to live longer, it is no surprise there are constantly new pressures facing the service. As a society we need to find new ways to support our NHS and I can see huge opportunities for us and others to do more through the gift of voluntary service. From expanding our existing services such as home from hospital to exploring new ways to relieve some of the pressures, I believe volunteers can support our NHS to have more time for patient care. Through our partnership with HelpForce, we will explore how to scale up the number of volunteers with a new model of intervention-led support.”

Sir Tom Hughes-Hallett, founder of HelpForce, said: “HelpForce is a new national initiative to better integrate volunteers with the NHS services, and increase the difference that volunteers make. Volunteering is good for all of us – patients, staff, communities, as well as the volunteers themselves. This research shows the huge appetite among the public to get involved and support the NHS, and the time is right to make the most of this opportunity. We are thrilled to be working as strategic partners with the Royal Voluntary Service, to scale volunteering. This partnership and the resources Royal Voluntary Service has dedicated, will ensure we develop robust, tested, national-level initiatives that can transform the volunteering experience, co-designed with hospital trusts, staff, volunteers, and voluntary sector experts.”

The survey went on to question how the public felt volunteers could ease the burden on the NHS. More than half (52%) felt volunteers could increase patient and visitor satisfaction by providing vital non-medical support on wards and 49% said they could improve the mood within a hospital as well as provide reassurance and company to patients when doctors and nurses are stretched for time. Two fifths said volunteers could help reduce readmissions by helping patients make a smooth transition back home and 44% believe they would help improve the emotional and personal care provided to patients.

The poll also explored the voluntary roles the public are already, or would consider, doing. These included providing companionship to patients on wards (47%), volunteering in the shops, cafes or for the trolley services that go out on wards (46%), helping out on wards during mealtimes (35%), helping patients get to and from their NHS appointments (30%) and leading activities and social groups for patients (24%).

Catherine Johnstone continues: “Few of us need convincing of the benefits that volunteers can bring, but there is a growing recognition within the NHS of the need to bring together staff and volunteer teams on a more strategic basis. This is not about replacing NHS staff roles but about providing extra time for care and support, particularly for people without their own network of family and friends.”

Barry Rigg, commissioner, Community Engagement Manager from the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Volunteers play an essential role in the way we provide care. They are hardworking and dedicated to supporting our staff, patients and visitors to get the best possible experience when in one of our hospitals. The most amazing part is that they give up their own time to carry out their roles which we cannot thank them enough for.”

Louise Munro, age 23, who has been volunteering with Royal Voluntary Service in Royal Lancaster Infirmary five days a week for the last four months, said: “I am a recent Medical Sciences graduate and I chose to spend my gap year volunteering on ward so that I could help improve the patient experience. My days are spent befriending patients on five wards at the RLI and supporting them during their hospital stay. I spend a lot of time with patients with dementia and through reminiscence therapy we often share wonderful conversations about the past that bring back happy memories. I have also been trained to deliver gentle chair based exercise sessions on ward to help older patients regain strength and confidence. It is very rewarding! Since joining the Royal Voluntary Service I’ve had a real impact on patients and their hospital experience and I love knowing I can make a difference.”

Royal Voluntary Service has been inspiring and enabling people to give the gift of voluntary service to meet the needs of the day for 80 years. Today, that’s supporting older people to stay healthy and happy and helping the NHS. With an army of 25,000 volunteers, the charity provides support in the community, at home and in hospital. Current services in hospitals include on ward support, patient transport and Home from Hospital as well as trolley services and an extensive range of cafes and shops.

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