Why do we need volunteers in the NHS?
Reliable and safe volunteers can help provide better experiences for patients, and free up more time for healthcare workers to focus on delivering the incredible work they’ve been trained to do. At Helpforce, we want to harness the power of dedicated and caring volunteers to create a more compassionate care system for all of us. We know that volunteering is good for the people being supported, health and social care services, charities, the volunteers themselves and the community as whole. While there are thousands of volunteers already carrying out vital work in the NHS, there is so much more we can do.
Are volunteers replacing staff roles?
Volunteers never replace roles that are for staff – instead they provide extra help that wouldn’t be covered by a paid for role. NHS Trusts need volunteers as they provide a valuable support role to busy staff and patients who are going through a difficult time. Volunteers can make the difference to someone’s day by providing simple but significant support.
Who are Helpforce?
Helpforce is a charitable organisation that is committed to creating a better future in health and care through volunteering. We’re working with the NHS, healthcare workers and the public to promote the benefits of volunteering for all involved – helping to expand the range and quality of volunteer roles that are available, and the number of volunteers involved in our NHS.
What is the minimum number of hours I have to commit to?
We are asking people to commit to a minimum of three consecutive hours a week for six months, or one day a month for six months. You can of course ask to do more hours – and for a longer period of time. Many hospital volunteers have been assisting for years, many tell us the best day of the week is the day they volunteer, but there is no obligation to do more than our minimum requirements.
Why do I have to commit to these hours?
NHS staff have told us that for volunteers to make a difference, they need them to commit to at least this time as this gives them continuity and a reliable source of help.
Can I choose which hospital I want to work in?
In the first instance we will try to match you with an NHS organisation that is near to where you live. If however you wish to change your hospital, you can contact the hospital you wish to join by getting in touch with their Volunteer Co-ordinator. If your local NHS organisation doesn’t have capacity for more volunteers at the moment we will, with your permission, pass your details to organisations like the Royal Voluntary Service, Murie Curie, and The British Red Cross, as they bring volunteers to work across many parts of the NHS.
Will there be lots of questions and forms to fill in?
You will be asked to meet the Volunteer Co-ordinator at the NHS organisation nearest to you. They will want to find out about you, your experience, your interest, and your motivation to volunteer. You will be asked to fill in an application form. If you both agree that you want to proceed and become a volunteer you will have simple health and criminal record checks – these are called a DBS check and an Occupational Health check. You may also be required to provide a reference, and the NHS organisation will provide training for you. All of this is important for patient safety. Your data will be fully protected throughout.
What is a DBS check?
The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) have merged to become the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). CRB checks are now called DBS checks. A DBS check enables employers to access the criminal records of current and potential employees to confirm whether they are suitable to work with vulnerable adults and children. It is a legal requirement and can take some time to complete. DBS checks are absolutely essential for all volunteers that are going to be working with patients to ensure the safety of both patients and volunteers. Each NHS organisation will have its own policy on individuals who wish to volunteer but who have a spent criminal conviction. Each case is different and therefore it is best to discuss this when you reach interview stage with the trust.
What is an Occupational Health check?
Occupational Health check is a term used to describe the simple employee health screenings required by employers. This helps to establish any health conditions that may impact on your ability to volunteer. Most NHS organisations have their own local policies for managing health assessments, but they are usually very simple and straightforward, such as filling our a form to confirm any existing health issues you may have. These health checks help ensure that volunteers are safe and able to work in the healthcare environment.
Will I need to get a flu jab?
Each NHS organisation will have an individual policy on flu jabs, but it would be sensible to get one. You will be able to find out more about this when you are going through the application process at the NHS organisation you are referred to. The NHS organisation will also advise on who covers the cost of the jab.
How do they decide what Hospital to send me to?
The choice of NHS organisaton will depend on various factors, including which one is nearest to you and is able to take on volunteers. If your local NHS organisation isn’t taking volunteers, with your permission we will pass you details to other local NHS oganisations or charities who provide volunteer services to the NHS locally.
What training will I be given?
Training varies between NHS organisations, but all your training will help keep you safe, and give you the skills to make you feel confident when volunteering on a busy ward with staff, patients and their families. A training session would typically include some or all of the following elements: Health and Safety; Fire Training; Equality and Diversity; Safeguarding; Conflict Resolution; Information Governance; Infection Control. Training will vary based on the role you are taking up and the role specific requirements to enable you to undertake the volunteering activity safely and effectively.
Can I recommend a friend?
If you are pledging your time through the Helpforce website you pledge your time only, not the time of someone else. It would be great if you encouraged your friends to get involved and get them to pledge their time.
Is my place guaranteed?
We can’t guarantee every person who pledges will get a place, but we will endeavour to place as many people with their local NHS organisations as possible. If you are suitable to volunteer but a place isn’t available at this time, we will (with your permission) keep your details on a data bank so that we can contact you when organisations are ready to take more volunteers. Some trusts hold their own waiting lists and you could be added to that if you prefer.
Will my expenses (such as travel and parking costs) be covered?
Each NHS organisation locally will have its own expenses policy. We therefore recommend that you discuss this with the volunteer coordinator locally once you have been placed.
Is a uniform provided?
Volunteers usually wear T-shirts or uniforms, provided by the NHS organisation, that identifies them as volunteers. We would recommend that you discuss this with the Volunteer Coordinator when you have been placed.
Are there any dress requirements or restrictions?
All NHS organisations will require volunteers to adhere to their infection control policies. You may therefore be asked to remove your watch, wear long hair tied back, wear short sleeves or have them rolled up as far as your elbows etc. This will be explained to you by the Volunteer Coordinator when you are placed locally.
Do I need particular skills or qualifications to qualify?
No, NHS organisations are looking for volunteers who are willing to learn. Whilst all your skills will be useful, you will be provided with training for the roles that you are going to complete. If you do have any specific skills to offer, please do note these on your pledge here.
How long will it take to process my request?
We are keen that you can start volunteering as soon as possible, but we hope you appreciate that the process may take several months. Once we have put your NHS organisation in touch with you it can take up to three months, and in some cases six months, before you start volunteering. This is mainly due to the length of time it takes to make the necessary health and background checks, and completing relevant training – all of which is key to ensuring that volunteers are safe and reliable.
Who is funding this?
Helpforce is a non-profit organisation funded through grants and donations. Money from Helpforce goes to helping NHS organisations work with more volunteers and helps them develop new and innovative volunteering roles. We are a small team and working in partnership with other volunteering organisations to achieve this.
Why have you partnered with the Daily Mail?
We are delighted to partner with the Daily Mail. They have a wide readership and will be able to feature the many stories of volunteers and how they support busy staff, help patients, and feel a great sense of satisfaction. We believe that partnering with the Daily Mail is a great way to help recruit volunteers and let more people know about volunteering.
Is there a deadline for application?
You can choose to volunteer for the NHS at any time, but this particular campaign is being supported during December and will close at the start of January. If it isn’t a good time for you to volunteer now but you may want to in future, you can get in touch with your local hospital or other NHS organisation at a later date. You can also look at other volunteering opportunities through https://do-it.org/
I have submitted an application but have not heard back?
You should have received an email thanking you for your application. Please check your email spam box just in case it has gone there in error. If you haven’t received it, please email [email protected] and we will check that your application was logged.
What is the maximum age permitted for application?
We haven’t put a maximum age as there are many examples of older volunteers doing great work.
What is the minimum age permitted for application?
The minimum age is 16. However, not all NHS organisations are able to take volunteers until aged 18 due to their own policies. If you are aged 16-18 we will do our best to place you with a local NHS organisation but please note that opportunities are more limited for this age group. #iwill and the Pears Foundation are together aiming to increase the number of volunteering opportunities for young people – you may wish to visit their website here: https://www.iwill.org.uk
Are all hospitals throughout the UK covered
Not all NHS organisations in the UK are able to take volunteers. We will work with those that currently have volunteer schemes open.
I have mobility issues, can I apply?
Yes, please apply. The NHS welcomes people with skills that are useful and can accommodate those with mobility issues, and/or long term conditions.
Why do I have to apply through Helpforce, rather than going straight to the hospital or trust?
You don’t have to apply through Helpforce – you can go directly to your local NHS organisation and apply to them. Please bear in mind that not all NHS organisations are recruting volunteers at this time. As this is a very busy time of year they may not have the capacity to answer your email or call. You will be able to obtain more information from your local Trust’s website.
How else can I help if I can’t commit to a regular time?
You can donate to Helpforce, via the donate button on the website or look at other volunteering opportunities through https://do-it.org/
What will Helpforce use the funds raised for?
Helpforce will use all the money raised to help support hospitals create new volunteering roles, and bring more volunteers to their wards.
I have a spent criminal conviction – can I still apply?
Each NHS organisation will have its own policy on individuals that wish to volunteer but that have a spent conviction. Each case is different and therefore it is best to discuss this when you reach interview stage with the trust.
If I am out of work and receiving benefits can I still volunteer?
Yes, we welcome people in and out of work. Often volunteering gives people new skills and increases their confidence, helping them back in to work. In general, volunteering should not affect benefits payments. However, we would recommend that you check with your benefits advisor if you are unsure.
What if I don’t like my placement?
You can discuss this with the Volunteer Co-ordinator and they will endeavour to find a role that suits your skills.
Why do people choose to volunteer?
People volunteer for many different reasons, but most say that it is a life-enhancing thing to do. They may choose to do it to find out what it is like working in the NHS, they may wish to gain new skills, or they may have a lot of time and wish to give back to their local community.
What do I do if I do not hear back from my application?
You should expect to hear back immediately with a thank you email, then you will hear again in late January or early February once we have matched you with an NHS organisation. If you don’t hear by the end of February then please revisit our Frequently Asked Questions, which will have been updated with a contact number.
If my application is rejected can I appeal?
Before a volunteering role can be undertaken, background checks and training needs to be completed. The volunteer coordinator will also assess your suitability for the volunteering roles available. If there are no suitable roles for you at this time, you may wish to consider looking at other volunteering options which may be more suited to you, such as through https://do-it.org/
Who can I contact if I have further questions?
To ask further questions, please go to the Frequently Asked Questions page and click on the speech bubble at the bottom of the page. This will take to one of our Ambassadors who will be happy to help.
How many people currently volunteer in the NHS?
The latest estimate is that 78,000 people volunteer in NHS hospital trusts, but the figure is much higher across all parts of the NHS. There are roughly 1.5 million people employed in the NHS.
What happens if I need to withdraw my pledge?
If you wish to withdraw your pledge, please email us at [email protected]
I am unable to donate my time, can I donate a financial contribution by cheque?
Yes you can. Simply make your cheque out to Helpforce Community Trust and post to:
S90, South Wing
London WC2R 1LA
Can I volunteer if I live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?
Yes – we are welcoming volunteers from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
I’m having trouble filling the form out online. Is there any other way I can make contact?
Due to the volume of volunteer pledges we are expecting to process, we are encouraging everyone to make contact through the online form only. If you are having problems with the form, it may be helpful to seek assistance from a friend or relative who can help you complete your pledge.
Will my role always be based in a hospital?
The majority of the volunteer roles we expect to be fulfilled through this campaign will take place in hospitals, but many volunteers will be placed in community healthcare settings to support NHS organisations providing community healthcare.