Vital role of NHS helpers enshrined in new charter
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.’