People who need help as a result of 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.
The health service is working hard to meet the combined challenge of winter pressures and second waves of COVID-19. A national lockdown is now in place and new Government advice has been issued to those most at risk. With all this in mind, 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 put themselves back ‘on duty’ over winter. new New volunteers across the country are also being urged to sign up.
A million ‘acts of kindness’
- NHS Volunteer Responders have hit the one million task milestone supporting their communities
- The scheme is being extended over the winter amid second COVID-19 wave and national lockdown
- New roles for volunteers include helping NHS staff deliver vital flu vaccines
- Everyone who signed up to NHS Volunteer Responders in March is urged to sign back ‘on duty’
- Opportunities are available for more Volunteer Responders to sign up to support the NHS
The programme will be expanded, offering volunteers new ways to support their communities and NHS staff. These include helping to run large flu vaccination clinics as part of the NHS’ largest-ever winter protection drive.
A record 30 million people are eligible for a free NHS jab this year and extra measures are in place to prevent the spread of the virus. This means health professionals are taking new approaches to flu clinics. These include using venues like sports halls and marquees to deliver hundreds of vaccinations in one session.
Volunteers would assist by
- helping transporting patients to venues,
- checking and logging people’s details when they arrive,
- 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.
“Vital that everyone plays their part”
Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said, “This programme has been a real success. Tens of thousands of people are 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. Volunteer Responders will continue to play an important role supporting them and their local communities. This will include helping to deliver the largest ever NHS flu vaccination drive.
“It’s vital that everyone plays their part in the fight against Covid-19. They can do this 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 – 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.”
“Immensely proud and grateful”
In a survey, 89% of people who requested help were very satisfied with the support the programme gave them.
The number of requests for help is increasing. So 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 for duty over the winter.
Catherine Johnstone CBE, Chief Executive for Royal Voluntary Service said, “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.”
Six vital roles to choose from…
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 transport and deliver 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’ are offered to clients experiencing challenges as a result of the pandemic.
Annemarie Holden (31), from Rotherham, spotted the NHS Volunteer Responders recruitment advert on Facebook and was excited to sign up.
She said, “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. 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.”
“Largest technologically coordinated resourcing of volunteers ever achieved”
Once they have signed up to the scheme and been verified, volunteers can put themselves on duty in their spare time. They can select tasks through a simple-to-use smartphone app provided by GoodSAM.
Mark Wilson, Co-Founder of GoodSAM, said “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.”
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. Alternatively phone 0808 196 3646.