The NHS Volunteers Responders scheme has been extended over winter so that people who need help as a result of Covid-19 will be able to access support.
The programme was originally launched in March, in partnership with the volunteering organisation Royal Voluntary Service and smartphone application GoodSAM, in order to grant support and combat loneliness for those having to shield from the virus.
More than 360,000 NHS Volunteer Responders have put themselves on duty, and as a result over a million tasks, including the delivery of food and medication, lifts to medical appointments and telephone conversations, have been completed.
Now, amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, and subsequent requests for help, the programme is being extended to the end of March with current volunteer urged to sign back on duty and a call for new volunteers across the country to join up.
Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “It’s vital that everyone plays their part in the fight against Covid by following the national lockdown guidance and the specific new advice from the Government on keeping yourself safe if you are in a vulnerable group.
“So if you need support to do that – whether that’s getting food or prescriptions delivered or just a friendly chat to ward off loneliness – we would urge you to get in touch through the free hotline.
“And for those who can spare a little time each week to help people in their community and support NHS staff, there are lots of opportunities to do your bit as an NHS Volunteer Responder.
“I would especially urge any Volunteer Responders who paused their volunteering after the first lockdown to re-join us now.”
With the NHS working hard to meet the combined challenge of the second wave and winter pressures, the programme will also be expanded to include volunteering at large flu clinics to help deliver vital flu vaccines.
A record 30 million people are eligible for a free NHS jab this year and large local venues such as sports halls are being used as flu clinics to deliver hundreds of vaccinations in one session in the NHS’ largest ever winter protection drive.
Volunteers would help by ensuring people were socially distanced and following hygiene precautions, as well as the transportation of patients to venues and logging patient details when they arrived.
Signing up as volunteer is simple and flexible due to the GoodSAM app, a first responder app used by emergency services worldwide, which allows volunteers to mark themselves on duty whenever they have free time and select the tasks they can perform.
Mark Wilson, Co-Founder of GoodSAM, said “This is the largest technologically coordinated resourcing of volunteers ever achieved. We believe micro-volunteering like this enabled people to help their local communities in a way and at a time convenient for them.”
Annemarie Holden, 31, from Rotherham spotted the recruitment advert on Facebook and was excited to sign up.
She said: “It’s clear that going into winter, people are still really needing support and it’s rewarding to be part of the volunteer army.
“It’s so heart-warming when people tell you how much you have helped them and I feel proud to have volunteered during this incredibly difficult time.”
Not only is the scheme rewarding for volunteers, but nine out of ten people who requested help were satisfied with the support given to them in the form of over a million acts of kindness.
Catherine Johnstone CBE, Chief Executive for Royal Voluntary Service said “I’m immensely proud of and grateful to our existing volunteers who have supported society’s most vulnerable through the first phase of the Covid response.
“With winter ahead they and new recruits will be vital in supporting NHS staff to keep people safe and well.”
Those in England are encouraged to check the NHS Volunteer Responders website to volunteer or see how they can get help for themselves or others.
Check the website or call 0808 196 3646.