Volunteers and the NHS workforce

20 August 2020

Judith Shaw, Liaison Workforce

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a call was raised to rally an army of volunteers needed to help support the NHS in a wide range of tasks, to help communities to stay safe throughout the outbreak.

Over one million people responded to the call, with 360,000 of these collectively taking on over 400,000 tasks across the UK. Tasks have included picking up shopping and medication for those who ae self-isolating and/or shielding, and providing essential emotional support with telephone calls.

In a recent update in the HSJ, the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme, which was set up by NHS England and Improvement (NHSE/I), in collaboration with the Royal Voluntary Service and the GoodSAM app, reports that “GPs have been struck by the speed and sensitivity of the volunteers, and the crucial role they have played in identifying people in need who might otherwise have slipped through the gaps.”

This shows how essential a contingent workforce has been during the coronavirus pandemic. It has been vital to provide increased support via volunteers in the community to help decrease hospital visits and ease pressure on NHS and social care services at a time when there was concern that capacity was reaching its limit. 

As we now move towards a new normal for NHS services, a second wave notwithstanding, it will be important for workforce leaders, as well as NHSE/I, to consider this volunteer army as allies to its services. They should look at how to keep them motivated and on board to provide ongoing support where possible; either through potential career moves to join the NHS in formal roles, forming social care support services, or moving them to relevant charity volunteer positions. The volunteers are a welcome force to a stretched service, and their willingness to provide help should be considered a positive outcome to a terrible situation.

At Liaison Group, we are proud of our team members who have given their time and efforts to support their communities in volunteer roles, and continue to develop our own tools and solutions to assist NHS organisations in their workforce planning, in order to close staffing gaps and ensure that the NHS emerges from the Covid-crisis in as strong a position as possible.

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