NHS Volunteer Responders: The largest peacetime mobilisation of volunteers

Last week saw the launch of NHS Volunteer Responders – volunteers whore supporting the NHS during the covid-19 outbreak. 

As of today, the scheme has attracted 750,000 applications – more than ten-times the number of games makers recruited for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic GamesThis was more than three times the number expected so recruitment is temporarily on hold – and has pushed NHS Volunteer Responders to be the largest UK peacetime mobilisation of volunteers

Whats the NHS Volunteer Responders Programme?

NHS Volunteer Responders has been set up to provide volunteer support to the 1.5m most at risk from coronavirus whore now being asked to shield themselves for 12 weeks. The volunteer initiative is being delivered by Royal Voluntary Service and enabled by the GoodSam Responders app. This app connects those in need of help with members of the local community with lifesaving skills who can offer help.  

This is not to replace any current local or national volunteer movements but to complement them. NHS Volunteer Responders will provide support in areas that might not have existing referral routes for people being asked to shield themselvesThese shielded people will then be referred for support by those with a gov.uk or nhs.net email address. In fact, this is likely to be the first of many new schemes to support people in the coming weeks.    

Anyone over the age of 18 in England can sign up. It’s not available outside England, however similar schemes may pop up in the future. Volunteers will be able to choose when theyre ‘on duty’ through the app – so they can choose how often to volunteer and fit this around other volunteering, work or life commitments.. 

NHS Volunteer Responder Roles 

There are four types of  NHS Volunteer Responder Roles: 

  • Community response volunteer  volunteers to collect and deliver shopping, medication or other essential supplies.  
  • Patient transport volunteer  volunteers to provide transport to patients whore ready for discharge and to ensure theyre settled safely back into their home.  
  • NHS transport volunteer  volunteers to transport equipment, supplies and/or medication between NHS services and sites – it may also involve assisting pharmacies with medication delivery. 
  • Check in and chat volunteer  volunteers to provide telephone support to individuals whore at risk of loneliness. 

With safety in mind, only the check in and chat role will be available to those in high-risk groups. This includes those over 70, those whore pregnant or with underlying medical conditions 

Good practice volunteer management 

There are several ways the scheme will be managed and supported: 

  • The scheme is run by the NHS and RVS, and organised via GoodSAM – an app that operates internationally to dispatch highly trained volunteers to help with emergency situations.  Its already used widely within the ambulance service and NHS111 
  • New volunteers are asked to  register on the NHS Volunteer Responders page, complete their details and identify which roles theyre interested in. Once checks are complete, theyll be emailed a verification code to use the GoodSAM Responders app. They can then make themselves available for volunteering.  
  • All new volunteers will receive a get-started pack appropriate to the roles they sign up to – so theyll have specific, clear and detailed guidance whichll enable them to provide support safely. This will be provided by RVS, and volunteers will be supported remotely by RVS’s dedicated support team 
  • Safeguarding is proportionate to the role with a focus on guidance for safer volunteering, reducing unnecessary barriers and delays. ID checks will be carried out for all volunteers. Only patienttransport drivers will need an enhanced DBS check and will receive additional guidance. 

Are volunteers on lockdown? 

If volunteering means people need to leave the house, this should be done following government advice. Check out my blog from last week for the full details of volunteering during the lockdownIf individuals get stopped by the police, theyll be able to demonstrate on the app that theyre in an ‘active’ volunteer task and therefore their travel is required. 

After a heartening response to this programme, volunteers have started to receive tasks from today. Rebecca Kennelly, from the Royal Voluntary Service, reflects on the overwhelming volunteer response: 

‘We’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we’ve received for the public stepping forward to volunteer. Their generosity continues to demonstrate the continued love and support of our NHS in this difficult time and has given hope to everyone working on the frontline as well as communities and people that need help.’

We’re looking forward to seeing the significant impact these 750,000 volunteers will make to those most in need. 

 

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Shaun Delaney Shaun is volunteering development manager at NCVO, overseeing strategy for volunteer management and good practice. Previously, he was head of volunteering at Samaritans and is currently a volunteer trustee of Greater London Volunteering.

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