Why volunteer in health and care?

Many NHS organisations and charities need help from volunteers. This is a great way to support the NHS and get involved in your community. Local NHS Trust websites usually include details of how to get involved.

Volunteers are crucial to the NHS’s vision for the future of health and social care, as partners with our skilled staff, not as substitutes for them. There are more than 300 types of role in the NHS alone, providing challenging and rewarding opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. Some can be a one-off, like a hospital garden makeovers or fundraising. Others can last for months or even years, like running a hospital radio show, helping with administration in a hospice or taking part in advisory groups.

Youth volunteering

Many NHS organisations are opening up volunteer roles for young people from the age of 16, and some now offer youth volunteering programmes for 16 and 17-year-olds. Young volunteers not only have a positive impact within the NHS, the experience they gain is often beneficial for them. For example by developing skills such as team working and problem-solving which are crucial for future success in education and the workplace.

NHS Cadets

NHS Cadets is an exciting programme being rolled out across England in partnership with St John Ambulance. It supports 14–18-year-olds from communities with less access to volunteering to find out what it is like to work in health and care, and to consider this as a future career choice. NHS Cadets learn first aid, develop their leadership and practical skills, and are offered rewarding healthcare volunteering opportunities. Further details are available on the St John Ambulance website.

How to get involved

There are different ways to support the NHS depending on the type of volunteering role that you are looking for. Examples and sources of information are given below.

1. Regular volunteering for your local hospital or ambulance trust: There are many volunteering options in hospital settings such as ward and department volunteers, administrative support, fundraising, patient participation groups or Foundation Trust governors. Each hospital is likely to have a choice of volunteering options, coordinated by a Volunteer Service Manager. Ambulance Trusts also have a range of volunteering roles from providing patient transport to being a Community First Responder who supports and reassures patients while an ambulance is on the way. Information about how to get involved will be on NHS organisation websites and you can find links to NHS trusts on the NHS Volunteering website. Some voluntary roles may also be advertised on NHS Jobs.

2. NHS and CARE Volunteer Responders: Our NHS and CARE Volunteer Responders offer a range of opportunities for people who live in England to support the NHS, its patients, and people who draw on social care. These volunteers can flex the time they offer through a smartphone app. This makes it easier to fit volunteering around work or other commitments. Available roles are advertised on the NHS CARE and Volunteer Responders website.

3. Regular volunteering for an organisation that works with the NHS: Voluntary organisations support the NHS in a wide range of ways which give extra help and comfort to patients and reduce pressure on our staff. The following websites include useful information – NCVO (National Council for Voluntary organisations) web page ‘I want to volunteer’ for everything you need to know to get started. Volunteering Matters for volunteering opportunities in your local area.