More than half a million tasks have been completed by the NHS army of volunteers recruited to help local communities during the coronavirus pandemic, with people in need of help, getting it fast.
The scheme has been made available to councils, charities and other organisations, as well as NHS staff, allowing people across the community to get support.
Set up by the NHS and Royal Voluntary Service using the GoodSAM App, the scheme was designed to protect vulnerable people and the NHS during the coronavirus crisis and has provided a vital safety net to individuals who need support since it launched three months ago.
New data from the ONS this week show the scale of vulnerable people receiving support from friends or relatives during the pandemic, with almost half of adults saying they had helped someone outside their household during lockdown – a substantial increase compared to the year before.
For those who have not had this care available, the volunteer responder scheme has been available to help people who needed it using geo location to quickly pinpoint the nearest volunteer, the majority of tasks are matched and delivered within 24 hours.
Nearly 600,000 volunteers were recruited to the scheme following the call for help and 360,000 of these people have put themselves ‘on duty’ since downloading the app and signing up.
NHS Volunteer Responders have enabled people to stay safe, get the essential food and medicines they need and have provided a listening ear to those isolating alone through thousands of friendly ‘check-in and chat’ phone calls.
They have also supported people to get to and from important hospital appointments when they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do so.
As the country moves to the next phase of its response to the virus, support remains open for local communities and NHS staff.
Catherine Johnstone CBE, Chief Executive for Royal Voluntary Service, the charity delivering the scheme said:
“To reach this significant milestone is testament to the goodwill of our nation who have come together to tackle this virus. Through the scale of our network, the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme has and will continue to provide a vital safety net for all people in need of support across England and we can’t thank our volunteers enough.”
“Our volunteers are important eyes and ears on the ground, and not only are they helping to do the day to day tasks that those isolating may not be able to do, but they are also playing an important role in identifying individuals who need additional support.
“It has been inspiring to see volunteers, friends, families and communities pulling together to help one another as the nation continues to battle coronavirus and we want to remind everyone that help is still available for those continuing to stay at home, even as lockdown measures begin to ease.”
Mark Wilson, GoodSAM, said:
“Congratulations to all the NHS Volunteers on completing half a million tasks to help those who have been most isolated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are immensely proud of combining technology and community to benefit patients, the NHS and society as a whole. When we set up GoodSAM to alert those trained in CPR to cardiac arrests near them, there were many cultural barriers to overcome within the emergency sector. The system now saves many lives. And we are so pleased that this combination of technology and community has been successfully brought into volunteering for the NHS.”
Kimberly Harvey, an NHS Volunteer Responder, said:
“It was a massive shock for me to not have my work, my social life and my big extended family after lockdown started. I wondered how I was going to get through it. At the time, Royal Voluntary Service was looking for 250,000 people to support 1.5 million people in need. I didn’t hesitate. I’m 30, live on my own in the centre of Portsmouth, I’m in good health and I drive. I thought, if I can help, I want to.
“After all the checks were done, I went live on the app; I didn’t know what to expect. But here we are weeks later, and I get at least one call a day. On my busiest day, I had five. This isn’t the kind of being busy you resent – you are just pleased to be helping people.
“The most rewarding thing I’ve done is helping an elderly man to his hospital appointments for cancer treatment. He lives just 20 doors down from me, but I’d never seen him before. Doing this has really brought home the things happening on my doorstep that I was completely oblivious to.
“My motivation for doing this is my family and friends who work for the NHS. My great-aunt is an infection control practitioner at the local hospital and my great-uncle is a logistics porter. He had retired but has gone back to help. My oldest and best friend is a nurse, doing her utmost. The point of this service is to relieve pressure on the NHS.”
NHS England and NHS Improvement, and Royal Voluntary Service are encouraging people who need support to register by calling 0808 196 3646.
Based on the number of tasks completed per 1,000 people, the ten areas benefiting the most from the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme include:
|Local Authority name||Tasks undertaken per 1,000|
|Kensington and Chelsea||38.9|