A modern volunteering mission for the NHS

The Managing Director of HelpForce explains how it is helping to develop new initiatives across the health service:

The NHS has always embraced volunteering as a means of uniting hospitals with their communities and enabling the public to give something back.

The chairman of NHS England, Sir Malcolm Grant, had first-hand experience of the value that volunteers bring when he volunteered at the Chelsea and Westminster NHS hospital trust. It further convinced him of the vital role volunteers can play in supporting staff and patients.

It was fantastic, therefore, to hear him praise the thousands of volunteers who already give their time to our NHS, in his speech at the 2018 Health and Care Expo in Manchester earlier this month.

He also made an historic commitment to “grow 21st century volunteering across the NHS”, backed by a £2.3m grant for HelpForce and its partner NHS trusts. This will be used to develop the most effective volunteer initiatives across the UK.

HelpForce is on a mission to find new ways for individuals and communities to contribute to our healthcare system.

Born from the vision of our founder, Sir Tom Hughes-Hallett, we want to better support NHS staff, patients, volunteers, and communities. ‘21st century volunteering’ means a better volunteer experience to attract, support, and retain more volunteers; nationally recognised training to ensure volunteers are safe and their skills are developed; and innovative volunteering roles to support patients and staff in a range of NHS settings.

This will be properly resourced, rigorously evaluated, co-designed and integrated with front-line staff, and with the backing of local NHS leadership.

I recently visited Royal Liverpool and witnessed how their end of life care volunteers are giving invaluable support to families, patients, and staff, and getting a huge amount from the role themselves. Such examples of excellence need to be shared and spread so more people benefit.

This is where HelpForce is already making a difference. Through our growing national Learning Network, we connect staff and volunteer managers to share best practice, and we are developing training for volunteers to support these services. We are collaborating with The Royal Voluntary Service to make volunteering more sustainable through new initiatives such as improving patient mobility. Other new partnerships with volunteer-led organisations are creating and spreading new ways for more patients, and their families, to benefit from specialised support.

Improving the way we use digital technology will play an important role as hospitals adopt new volunteer management systems, and we launch a new learning platform to help trusts share innovation. We have been developing tools with trusts so they can show the impact volunteers have. With increased digital comes better quality data, and this will allow us to show the improvements that the new investment in volunteering will make.

If you work for an NHS hospital trust please join us on this journey. We will work with you to enhance and spread your volunteering initiative.

In addition, ten NHS hospital trusts will be selected for the HelpForce Volunteering Innovators programme and will receive a £75,000 grant each, and access to a range of supporting services, digital tools, resources, and tailored guidance. Don’t miss this opportunity to play your part in creating 21st century volunteering for the NHS.

Paddy Hanrahan

Paddy Hanrahan is the Managing Director of HelpForce and has experience of start-ups in the health-social space after helping to set up the Centre for Ageing Better over 2015-16. Prior to that Paddy was a managing director at Accenture where he worked for 13 years, mostly with NHS clients.

HelpForce is a Community Interest Company, founded in 2016 by Sir Thomas Hughes Hallett, Chair of Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust. It was set up to support the development of 21st century volunteering at national scale in collaboration with the NHS, charities and the patients and communities it serves.


  1. Hazel Kitchener says:

    I signed up for the daily mail helpforce volunteering and have not heard anything from you .
    My last contact with you was a couple of months ago.
    Please can you let me know if I have been successful.
    My name is
    Hazel Kitchener
    Thank you