Vi­tal role of NHS helpers en­shrined in new char­ter

Daily Mail - - Life - By Kate Pick­les Health Cor­re­spon­dent

A PI­O­NEER­ING char­ter has been cre­ated to show how tens of thou­sands more vol­un­teers can be used to sup­port the NHS.

The agree­ment – be­tween NHS unions and the Daily Mail’s char­ity part­ner Help­force – will give guid­ance about roles that vol­un­teers can un­der­take.

Health bosses hope the char­ter will al­lay any con­cerns that vol­un­teers could un­der­mine the work of salaried and trained em­ploy­ees.

The guid­ance fol­lows the Mail’s Christ­mas cam­paign, which saw 33,000 read­ers pledge nearly 1.9mil­lion hours of sup­port to the NHS.

Si­mon Stevens, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of NHS Eng­land, has promised to dou­ble its vol­un­teer army over the next three years as part of its long-term plan, from about 78,000 vol­un­teers now to 156,000.

The char­ter aims to re­as­sure staff and helpers by set­ting guide­lines to de­velop roles that sup­port the pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence, with­out un­der­min­ing paid staff.

Trade unions, which rep­re­sent staff across the NHS, say it will lead to more clearly de­fined roles for all.

Sara Gor­ton, head of health at Uni­son, said: ‘The num­ber of vol­un­teers in English hos­pi­tals is ex­pected to dou­ble by 2023.

‘That’s why it’s vi­tal that staff, vol­un­teers and their man­agers agree mea­sures to pro­tect them­selves and the peo­ple who use the health ser­vice.

‘The char­ter recog­nises the im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion of those who give their time for free to an un­der­re­sourced NHS, as well as pro­vid­ing clar­ity for the way ahead. It also en­sures unions are in­volved in mak­ing this work in lo­cal hos­pi­tals.’

While Jon Skewes, from the Royal Col­lege of Mid­wives, said: ‘This char­ter is wel­come as it brings clar­ity to the role of vol­un­teers about how they work with NHS staff and sup­port the peo­ple they care for.’

Un­der the terms of the agree­ment, vol­un­teers will never be in­cluded in any counts of staffing lev­els.

They will be asked to wear uni­forms and badges that dis­tin­guish them from staff to avoid any con­fu­sion for pa­tients and their fam­i­lies.

Trade unions will help set out and mon­i­tor the way that vol­un­teers are de­ployed at a lo­cal level.

Help­force will be able to as­sist NHS vol­un­teer ser­vice man­agers and staff work­ing along­side vol­un­teers to un­der­stand the dis­tinc­tion be­tween their roles and paid staff.

Health trusts will be urged to adopt the prin­ci­ples, which have been widely con­sulted on.

The first batch of read­ers are edg­ing closer to start­ing their place­ments with the first in­take of Help­force vol­un­teers at North Tees and Hartle­pool NHS Foun­da­tion Trust.

And thou­sands more should have re­ceived no­ti­fi­ca­tion of their place­ments at hos­pi­tals or in the com­mu­nity, de­pend­ing on how quickly they said they would like to start the full ap­pli­ca­tion process.

Sir Thomas Hughes-Hal­lett, the chair­man and founder of Help­force, said: ‘We are proud to be work­ing closely with health unions to de­liver this im­por­tant new char­ter and es­tab­lish for­mal bound­aries be­tween the role of a vol­un­teer and the role of staff in our health care.’

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