Future developments in NHS volunteering

Volunteers have supported the NHS since its inception. An estimated 100,000 volunteers contribute to NHS organisations and thousands more support through the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector. During the pandemic more than 400,000 people also took part in the NHS Volunteer Responders programme, with many of these still volunteering today.

Volunteers’ support makes a massive difference to those who benefit from their kindness and compassion. In many cases they step into the role traditionally filled by family members where families are not present or able to assist.

As we celebrate the NHS at 75, we have worked with volunteering leaders from across the NHS, government and the VCSE sector to develop a five-year vision for NHS volunteering. This independent coalition of leaders has analysed the issues and recommended changes to turbo-charge volunteering within the NHS. Following stakeholder feedback – including from volunteers and NHS volunteer managers, patients and the public – they have published the NHS volunteering taskforce report and recommendations.

The report calls for:

  • a better understanding of who our volunteers are
  • improved awareness among clinicians and health leaders about the impact volunteers can have on patient and staff experience
  • an enhanced and consistent volunteer experience across the NHS
  • and a clear role for volunteers in a health emergency.

To turn these recommendations into reality we are investing £10m over three years to drive forward the positive impact of volunteering on health services. The funds will be used to help Integrated Care Systems develop innovative approaches to volunteering and uncovering untapped potential to bring together community and healthcare volunteering.

This transformation programme will complement work that NHS England is already doing to grow volunteering across health and care services. This includes:

  • developing a national volunteer recruitment portal to make it easier for health and care organisations to find volunteers and volunteers to find volunteering opportunities
  • extending the reach of NHS Volunteer Responders – set up to support the national pandemic response – to support the needs of local health and care services
  • promoting volunteering as a route into an NHS career through programmes such as NHS Cadets and Volunteer to Career.

For further information contact england.voluntarypartnerships@nhs.net