NHS VOLUNTEER ARMY TO DOUBLE
As 23,600 of you sign up for Mail campaign, health chiefs unveil major new drive to boost patient carers
THE NHS wants to double its volunteer army in recognition of the huge benefits for patient care, the Daily Mail can reveal.
Officials plan to increase the voluntary workforce from the current 78,000 to 156,000 over the next three years.
The news comes as support is growing for the Mail’s hospital volunteer campaign, which was launched at the beginning of December in partnership with Helpforce – a fast-growing health service charity. By last night a total of 23,655 readers had signed up, pledging a combined total of 1,344,132 hours in help and support.
The campaign has been backed by JK Rowling, Claudia Winkleman and Sir Cliff Richard alongside Prime Minister Theresa May and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
NHS chiefs believe volunteers have a huge impact on patients and hospital staff, and at the same time greatly enhance their own lives.
While older volunteers stay active and connected, younger recruits gain invaluable skills
and experience for their future careers. The ambition to extend volunteering is set out in NHS England’s Long Term Plan, a blueprint of the health service’s priorities for the next ten years.
Due imminently, the plan will urge hospitals to recruit many more younger volunteers, particularly those with mental health problems, learning difficulties or from deprived communities.
The document will also reveal there is currently a huge variation in the proportion of volunteers in hospitals across the country.
While some hospitals have one volunteer for every two permanent members of staff, others have just one volunteer per 26 employees.
NHS England will address this stark difference by encouraging hospitals to offer more volunteering opportunities and by investing £2.3million in Helpforce.
The NHS Long Term Plan was meant to be published this week but is now likely to be postponed until the New Year due to ongoing wrangling over Brexit.
It will outline what patients can expect from the NHS over the next decade, how care will improve, and how the extra £20.5billion a year
‘Greater access for younger volunteers’
promised by the Government will be spent.
The section on volunteers, seen by the Mail, highlights how volunteering can benefit both patients and the volunteers themselves.
It states: ‘Staff, patients and volunteers benefit from well-designed volunteering initiatives. Volunteers contribute across a range of roles, from first responders and care companions to trust governors and link workers (who provide emotional and practical support). They enable staff to deliver high-quality care that goes above and beyond core services.
‘Local volunteering allows older people to stay physically active and connected to their communities, and younger people to develop skills and experience for work and education.
‘But not all NHS organisations offer these opportunities for their local community, as the ratio of staff to volunteers in acute trusts ranges from 2:1 to 26:1.’ The section adds: ‘We will back the Helpforce programme with £2.3million of NHS England funding to scale successful volunteering programmes across the country, as part of our work to double the number of NHS volunteers over the next three years.’
The document urges hospitals to ‘give greater access for younger volunteers’, particularly those in deprived areas or those with mental health issues, learning disabilities and autism.
Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, said: ‘ Volunteers have made an immense contribution to the NHS since its foundation and, as part of the NHS long term plan, we want to double the numbers who give their time, skills and experience to help patients and staff. That is why NHS England is whole-heartedly backing the Daily Mail and Helpforce’s Christmas campaign to encourage more people to give back to a service that does so much for their country.’
Earlier this month a study by the King’s Fund found that the overwhelming majority of NHS staff believed volunteers had a huge impact on patient care. The thinktank’s survey of 300 frontline health workers showed 90 per cent thought volunteers added ‘a lot of value to patients’.
Helpforce plans to use the money it receives from NHS England to prioritise volunteering roles in endof-life care, providing transport to appointments and in improving mobility for long-stay patients.
Sir Thomas Hughes- Hallett, founder and chairman of Helpforce, said: ‘We are delighted to have this renewed commitment to volunteering from NHS England, which will help ensure that many more patients and staff can benefit from the positive impacts of volunteering.
‘Volunteering is good for the people being supported, health and social care services, charities, the volunteers themselves and the community as a whole.
‘Volunteers have always been at the heart of the NHS and this important backing will help to unlock their full potential.’
Last night, Helpforce said 23,655 people have pledged a combined total of 1,344,132 hours of help over six months through the Mail’s campaign. The figures include 13,682 who have pledged three hours a week and 9,973 who have pledged one day a month.
÷The NHS is to create a ‘National Heroes’ Service’ by spending £10million on expanding its mental health help for military veterans.
It comes in response to concerns that as many as 5 per cent of Britain’s 2.6million former servicemen and women are increasingly being afflicted by post-traumatic stress disorder.
It will mean expansion for the NHS Veterans’ Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service, which works in local communities to assess the mental health needs of those leaving the Forces.