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NHS army of volunteers to start protecting vulnerable from coronavirus in England
Hundreds of thousands of NHS Volunteer Responders will be able to report for duty today and start helping the NHS in its fight against coronavirus.
Over 750,000 people signed up to the NHS’ call for volunteers in just four days when the scheme launched, three times the original target.
Royal Voluntary Service, the charity delivering the volunteer effort, will have completed checks for the three quarters of a million applications by the end of Tuesday.
Thanks to the huge response, the group of vulnerable people they will support in England has now been expanded and they will come to the aid of 2.5 million at risk people.
From today the volunteers will be:
- delivering medicines from pharmacies;
- driving patients to appointments;
- bringing them home from hospital;
- making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home;
- transporting medical supplies and equipment for the NHS.
Thousands of these approved volunteers will be offered tasks from today via the GoodSAM app and will start helping people safely, with more expected to get requests over the coming weeks as referrals ramp up.
Health professionals, pharmacists and local authorities can upload requests for help on the NHS Volunteer Responders referrer’s portal and volunteers pick the job they want to do that day and close the task once complete.
Volunteers show themselves as available when their app is switched to ‘on duty’.
President of national volunteering charity, Royal Voluntary Service, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall has shared a message of thanks to the 750,000 people who have stepped forward to volunteer as NHS Volunteer Responders.
HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, who became President of Royal Voluntary Service in December 2012, said: “As the proud President of the Royal Voluntary Service, I wanted to send my warmest thanks to all the NHS Volunteer Responders who have come forward in unprecedented numbers to offer help to the NHS.
Royal Voluntary Service has been working with the NHS to recruit people in England who can assist those who are most in need of practical and emotional support at this time. Thankfully, the charity has a long and remarkable history of bringing willing volunteers together with the isolated and lonely. That experience is needed more than ever in these challenging times. And today many more NHS Volunteer Responders will get in touch with the people they have so kindly offered to help.
Everyone working in the NHS is under unimaginable pressure day and night in this crisis. I feel sure that the presence of so many wonderful volunteers will encourage, as well as support, them. I salute each one of you – and thank you with all my heart.”
The Duchess of Cornwall has also undertaken a ‘check in and chat’ call with Doris Winfield, 85, from Rickmansworth, who has spent the last two weeks self-isolating.
While Doris has three daughters who she regularly speaks to, she lives alone and misses her friends and the active social life she used to enjoy.
Doris Winfield said: “Having a chat with HRH The Duchess of Cornwall meant the world to me. I’ve been incredibly lonely over the last couple of weeks and it was wonderful to talk to her. We talked about life in isolation and shared hobbies, she was very interested in my family and how I was coping without them. It’s really cheered me up!”
NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “The number of people who came forward to help some of the most vulnerable in their communities is truly extraordinary.
“Today we begin to see the results of these tremendous acts of goodwill from the British public, with volunteers offering support to those who need it most.”
“Tackling this unprecedented coronavirus challenge means all of us to pulling together, so on behalf of the NHS, thank you to everyone who is playing their part.”
Catherine Johnstone CBE, Chief Executive at Royal Voluntary Service said: “We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness across England and the many thousands of people wanting to play their part.
“We are already matching volunteers with vulnerable people in their local area to perform the tasks they have signed up to do. During the coming weeks and months
“They will be called upon to help those who are vulnerable and at risk who are self-isolating for their own protection. Not only will this help to relieve pressure on the NHS – but it will also save lives.”
Mark Wilson, Co-founder and Medical Director of GoodSAM said: “GoodSAM is immensely proud to have adapted our platform to be the first autonomous tasking system on this scale in the world. The complexities of matching different volunteer roles to those in need in a geo-located manner has never been done before. We thank the volunteers and GoodSAM community in all their support in making this happen. We look forward to the system helping many thousands of people.”
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, said: “Our army of dedicated volunteers and charity workers are absolutely integral to the national effort to beat coronavirus.
“Thank you to the many hundreds of thousands of people across the country choosing to give up their time to help others. The outpouring of support and goodwill from the British public has been remarkable already, and I’m sure this is just the start. There will be more opportunities to get involved and help the country and local communities through this.”
The volunteer recruitment drive has been temporarily paused to enable the RVS to work together with the NHS to get the volunteer army up and running. However we are already looking at how we can continue to develop new volunteer involving initiatives at scale and pace to continue to support our society through the challenges of Covid-19. I have never been prouder of my organisation and our NHS.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “I want to thank every single person who signed up to be a NHS Volunteer Responder – their incredible generosity means we can now start helping those most in need across our communities and, in turn, support our heroic NHS staff and social care staff as they continue their outstanding work.
“Coronavirus is one of the greatest challenges our country has faced, and it is truly awe inspiring to see our whole nation coming together to help each other at this difficult time.”
For more information visit www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk or to make a referral visit NHS England website.