Chief Nursing Officer pays tribute to nation’s health volunteers

Professor Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, today praised the three million volunteers nationwide who give their time freely to support health, welfare and disability organisations.

Marking the start of Volunteers Week 2016, Professor Cummings said she wanted to take the opportunity to thank the often “under-appreciated” volunteers across the country who support friends and neighbours as well as their local communities.

“Volunteers make a big difference and their impact on helping to improve the health and care services we provide should not be underestimated,” she said. “They add value to many vital services, helping people recover from ill health sooner and supporting better experience of care – and for that we all owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

“That is why this week I am calling on health and care leaders around the country to not only go out and meet volunteers and thank them, but also to begin to consider how their organisations’ volunteering services can be developed to ensure they thrive and reach their full potential in supporting the health and care of the nation.

“We also know that for many volunteers giving up their time to support others actually helps their own health and wellbeing, enabling them to have more control of their own lives and to feel part of, and be active in, their own community.”

Jane added: “This is why volunteering is a key element of the Five Year Forward View and is critical in delivering more people and community focused care; and why ‘volunteering and social action as key enablers’ should be embedded in the New Models of Care and Sustainability and Transformation Plans.”

Professor Cummings explained recent research from the King’s Fund suggests that around 24 million British adults would consider volunteering in the health and care sector, adding: “We need to realise the opportunities this brings and ensure we enable this to happen.

“There are some excellent examples of volunteers having a hugely positive impact, but there are also a lot of under-supported volunteer programmes that lack leadership and management.

“If we are to be successful in recruiting more volunteers and spreading even further the good work they do, it is critical that we don’t miss opportunities and that we realise the full impact and potential of volunteer groups in order to harness the energy of people and communities who put their heart and soul into what they do.

“We should explore innovative forms of volunteering that reach into communities or links to social prescribing; we need well supported and trained staff and volunteers alongside safe and professional practice.

“And, lastly, we need to see more NHS and other health and care providers achieve the quality standard Investing in Volunteers. Not only does it benchmark and assure quality, but it also provides a framework for development and management. To support this, NHS England is hosting a free event on the 11th July for NHS Trusts, vanguard sites and other providers.”