Volunteers have a played a vital role in supporting patients during the pandemic. Between April and July, in an unprecedented response, more than 360,000 members of the public volunteered through the NHS Volunteer Responders programme, offering their time and energy to support the NHS.
We must build on this incredible movement to support a renewed focus on increasing longer-term volunteering opportunities in the NHS. This is already being done, for example with the launch of the NHS Cadets – a new scheme set up with St John Ambulance, providing a chance to support patients and a new route into a future in the NHS. By 2023, NHS England and NHS Improvement aims to enrol 10,000 young people.
Organisations and systems are encouraged to focus on the following:
Training volunteers: The National Learning Hub for Volunteering has been launched by HEE, and should be used to support the learning, training and development of volunteers across health, social care and the third sector.
Routes into employment for volunteers: Systems and employers should review how volunteers can help support recovery and restoration. They should also have a plan to support any volunteers who wish to move into NHS employment. This must include a focus on providing opportunities for hard-to-reach groups, such as people with learning disabilities, and ensuring volunteers reflect the diversity of their communities.
Inspiring the next generation: Systems and employers should promote the NHS Ambassadors programme to their people and allow them time to do this valuable outreach work. The scheme supports NHS people to volunteer their time to connect with school children and young people, to showcase what we do and attract them into future careers in the NHS.