Since putting the call out for NHS volunteer responders on 24th March, over 750,000 people from across the UK have registered to help with tasks ranging from delivering medicines from pharmacies and driving patients to GP appointments or hospital, to making regular phone calls to check on people at risk of loneliness.
Whilst many people have personal reasons of wanting to ‘give back’ to the NHS as their motivation for signing up, others feel a sense of civic duty and want to support their communities. Many volunteers are looking for a positive way to fill the days, perhaps in response to the cancellation of exams or being furloughed from their usual role.
Whatever the reason, the scheme has now been placed on pause in order to allow the backlog of volunteer registrations to be processed. Speaking in the Metro on 29th March, Catherine Johnston, Chief Executive of Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) said: “On Tuesday evening [24th March], Royal Voluntary Service readied itself to launch the biggest call out for volunteers in England since the Second World War.
“Less than 24 hours later, we had hit our target of 250,000 sign-ups and today that number is at 750,000. We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the response and cannot thank the public enough.”
So, what happens now?
Background checks will be carried out for each applicant, and those successful will be sent registration details for the existing NHS GoodSAM app. When the volunteer is available, they’ll mark themselves as being ‘on duty’. They will then select a volunteering opportunity added to the app by a call centre run by the RVS.
It will be essential to maintain the momentum and interest of those who have registered by getting to this stage quickly and ensuring that those who have volunteered feel valued and useful, and trusts should begin to collate their volunteering opportunities to submit to RVS in order to engage those who have volunteered in their regions.
What is the GoodSAM app?
The GoodSAM app was launched five years ago to alert trained volunteers to instances of cardiac arrest in their local areas.
On the Digital Health website, Dr Mark Wilson, GoodSAM co-founder, says: “GoodSAM has been saving lives through technology for five years by crowdsourcing resuscitation in cardiac arrest. We are hugely proud to now also be crowdsourcing volunteers to help those in need at this time of national crisis.”
NHS volunteer responders at Liaison Group
In addition to Liaison Group continuing to operate as usual from the homes of our teams, we are proud that a number of our staff members have also signed up to act as NHS volunteer responders, including:
Julia Tybura, Non-Executive Director
“I have worked in the charity and health sectors for 35 years and used to be the HR Director of the RVS (WRVS as was!). They do such good work – I’m delighted that they are partnering with the NHS in such a huge and important endeavour. I have asthma so can’t do any frontline work as an NHS HRD or as a volunteer, so I’ve signed up as a check and call volunteer responder. Tackling loneliness in society and supporting older people is something I’ve done as a Trustee in several charities, so I wanted to use this, and my coaching experience, to support the vulnerable during this difficult time.”
Anne Simon, Agency Engagement Coordinator
“I have volunteered to provide support with telephoning those who need a chat. I would like to have done more but my partner is in the vulnerable category due to pre-existing conditions so I can’t put him at risk by not being in isolation. I have done it because my mom is nearly 85 and I am grateful that we are a large and close family and will keep in touch with her via WhatsApp, but feel for those people who don’t have contact with other people. It must be incredibly lonely for them during this time.”
At Liaison Group, we support the involvement of volunteers to provide assistance to our NHS and to the patients and communities they serve. As a partner of the NHS, we’re recognising and celebrating the time they’re giving to provide help to those who need it most.
To find out more about volunteering to support the NHS, please visit: www.england.nhs.uk/participation/get-involved/volunteering/