Half a million sign up to become NHS volunteers - here's how you can join them

The number of volunteers has far suppassed the original plea, currently totally at half a million - and counting.

This week Health Secretary Matt Hancock kicked off a major campaign to recruit 250,000 volunteers for the health service saying, “the NHS needs you”.

He also announced that in addition to those who will volunteer for the NHS, a further 35,00 more staff will be joining the NHS to fight the coronavirus outbreak. These people consist of retired doctors and nurses, as well as final year medical students.

In the statement, Matt Hancock said, “Today we launch NHS volunteers. We are seeking a quarter of a million volunteers, people in good health to help the NHS, for shopping, for the delivery of medicines and to support those who are shielding to protect their own health.”

matt Hancock

Overnight, 170,000 people answered the call for volunteers. Using the online sign up form, this works out to about 3 people per second signing up to offer help to vital healthcare services.

Commenting on the call-out for volunteers, Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS Director of Primary Care said, “This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments where a single action from one person can be the difference between life and death for another, and simple acts of kindness are going to make all the difference in keeping some of the most vulnerable people well and out of hospital.”

Who can volunteer for the NHS?

Volunteering applicants must:

  • Live in England
  • Be in “good health”
  • Be 18 years old or over
  • Have no coronavirus symptoms

Anyone who is in a higher-risk group (including those over 70 years old, pregnant or those to have underlying health conditions) is still able to offer support, but over the telephone.

Also, those without access to their own personal transport (i.e. car), will only be offered telephone support roles such as “Check-in and Chat”.

Safety will always be the priority, so the majority of the tasks can be completed while social distancing and all volunteers will have guidance through the “getting started pack” you receive when you sign up on how to do this. If you become ill during volunteering, you can also pause your participation in the scheme.

older woman talking on phone

What will I being doing as an NHS volunteer?

The NHS Volunteer Responders is not being made to replace the local services run by charities and other volunteer organisations, but rather to assist the NHS in vital services.

Some of the roles you can take on include:

  • Community Response Volunteer: This involves collecting shopping, medication and other essential supplies for someone who is self-isolating, and delivering the supplies to their home.
  • Patient Transport Volunteer: This role involves providing transport to patients who are medically fit to be discharged from hospital and require help to get settled safely back in their homes.
  • NHS Transport Volunteer: Transporting equipment, supplies and/or medication between NHS services and sites. This role might also involve helping pharmacies to deliver medications.
  • Check-in and Chat Volunteer: This is a role that offers short-term support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness, as a consequence of self-isolation.

Those using the volunteer service will be GPs, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, NHS 111 advisors and social care staff. They will be able to request help for their patients via a call centre run by the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), who will match at-risk people with volunteers who live near to them.

Some local charities will also be able to ask for assistance from the service.

How can I sign up to be an NHS volunteer?

To join the NHS Volunteer Responders group, you need to visit the GoodSAM website and click “Join us today”, where you’ll be taken to a sign up page.

The website’s co-founder, Dr Mark Wilson has said, “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.”

All volunteers on the scheme will need to undertake training and background checks, to make sure they are appropriate to the roles that they are being signed up for.

Any patient transport drivers will also require an enhanced DBS check and will receive all the guidance they’ll need on how to do this role safely in the “getting started pack”.

Once you are registered and the checks are complete (which could take up to 72 hours), you are provided with log-in information to access the GoodSAM Responder app. On the app, switch to “on duty” and you’ll see live, local volunteer tasks to pick up nearby.

These activities are allowed under the new rules announced by the Government recently, as you’re helping vulnerable people. But if stopped, volunteers might be asked to show the task they’re responding to.

If you meet all the criteria, are available and interested in getting involved, go to the website and sign up today.

Grace Walsh
Health Editor

A digital health journalist with over six years of experience writing and editing for UK publications, Grace has covered the world of health and wellbeing extensively for Cosmopolitan, The i Paper and more.

She started her career writing about the complexities of sex and relationships, before combining personal hobbies with professional and writing about fitness. Everything from the best protein powder to sleep technology, the latest health trend to nutrition essentials, Grace has a huge spectrum of interests in the wellness sphere. Having reported on the coronavirus pandemic since the very first swab, she now also counts public health among them.