National Lottery funding awarded to Helpforce to scale improvements in NHS volunteering practice across the UK

16th May 2018

Helpforce, an organisation using the power of volunteering to improve the health and wellbeing of people across the UK, has received £897,000 of National Lottery funding to expand and improve volunteering services across the UK covering England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

The funding from the Big Lottery Fund, the UK’s largest funder of community activity, will enable Helpforce to support a growing number of NHS Trusts in England by developing their volunteer services to make a positive difference for patients, volunteers and NHS staff.

Volunteers play an important role in the NHS, providing support and services to complement the work of NHS staff. This funding will allow Helpforce to support Trusts to explore how volunteer services can be developed and extended within the other UK nations. Helpforce now intends to develop partnerships with healthcare and third sector leaders across Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland – including Volunteer Now, and NHS Wales – to scale and improve volunteering practice.

Helpforce, founded by Sir Tom Hughes-Hallett and run by Paddy Hanrahan, is a collaboration between the health, social and voluntary sectors and aims to improve people’s experience of the health system. The organisation aims to double the number of volunteers working in the NHS by 2021, with a significant improvement in the range and quality of volunteer roles available.

The scheme intends to harness the power of volunteers to bring national-level change through a wide range of initiatives involving volunteers. These initiatives have been codesigned with front-line NHS staff and will provide additional support for patients and staff. This includes helping at meal-times, keeping patients active, or supporting them with discharge from hospital. While more than 78,000 people currently volunteer with acute NHS Trusts, they are rarely integrated into NHS strategies or service delivery plans, and this limits their ability to make a tangible difference.

Helpforce is currently working with 13 Acute NHS Hospital Trusts to develop new volunteer roles and create a best practice model for volunteering in hospitals and other patient settings. The importance of its mission has already been recognised by NHS England, who has made volunteering a key part of their 70th anniversary celebrations.

Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett, Founder and Chair of Helpforce, said:

“This funding is an incredibly important step in our journey. It provides a vital platform to help us scale and grow across the UK, ensuring as many people as possible can benefit from volunteering. Volunteers can really help healthcare professionals and community organisations meet the diverse care and support needs of patients. With the NHS under intense pressure, we want volunteering to be supported as a strategic priority, and our ongoing fundraising is crucial to helping achieve this.”

Joe Ferns, UK Funding Director at the Big Lottery Fund, said:

“Helpforce recognises the impact of volunteering in hospitals and is seeking to make it even more powerful, to the benefit of all involved. A key step will be bringing staff, patients and volunteers together to co-design a volunteering service that is more effective at meeting their differing needs. By doing this, HelpForce aims to make a meaningful difference to both patients and volunteers so they get the most out of giving their skills and time. We’re proud to be using National Lottery funding to support this important goal.”

Andrew Goodall, CEO of NHS Wales, said:

“Volunteers play a crucial role in both health and social care, not as substitutes for but as partners with our skilled employed staff. Many volunteers already generously give their time and skills to help others, and we look forward to strengthening our relationship with HelpForce to maximise this potential across Wales.”

Alan Bigham, Programme Manager, Scottish Health Council, said:

“The Scottish Health Council supports health and social care services to engage with people and communities, and leads NHS Scotland’s volunteering programme. Volunteering is good, not only for volunteers, but also for the health and social care staff they support, and for our communities. Our work with Helpforce will help to share and celebrate the impact of volunteering, ensuring that more people
benefit where it matters.”

Denise Hayward, Chief Executive, Volunteer Now Northern Ireland, said:

“We are thrilled to be working with HelpForce to promote, develop and support volunteering in healthcare. The Helpforce model has the potential to bring the benefits of volunteering to patients, staff, and our communities.”