The NHS needs an army of 250,000 volunteers to support the 1.5m people who are at high risk during the virus outbreak, reports Zak Jakubowski
The government is calling for members of the public, high risk or not, to volunteer to support the NHS in its fight against the covid-19 pandemic. The scheme will be open to all and could help furloughed workers during self isolation.
To enlist in the NHS Volunteer Responders programme, members of the public can sign up at goodsamapp.org/NHS.
Volunteers may be called upon to:
- deliver medicines from pharmacies;
- drive patients to appointments;
- bring patients home from hospital; and
- make regular phone calls to check on people self isolating at home.
The majority of tasks can be undertaken while social distancing and volunteers will receive guidance through the Getting Started Pack.
If volunteers do become ill, they can pause their volunteering.
I pay tribute to each and every one of those who are returning to the NHS at its hour of need
Matt Hancock, health secretary
Once volunteers have registered and checks are complete, people will be provided a log-in to the GoodSAM Responder app.
Switch the app to 'on duty', and volunteers will see live and local volunteer tasks to pick from nearby.
GPs, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, NHS 111 advisers and social care staff will all be able to request help for their at-risk patients via a call centre run by the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), who will match people who need help with volunteers that live near them.
Volunteers must be 18 or over, and fit and well with no symptoms. Those in higher risk groups (including those over 70, those who are pregnant or with underlying medical conditions) will be able to offer support by telephone.
This programme enables volunteers to provide care or to help a vulnerable person, which is permitted under the new ‘stay at home’ rules announced by the government on 23 March 2020.
In the daily briefing meeting on 24 March, health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: ‘We are seeking 250,000 volunteers, people in good health, to help the NHS for shopping and delivery of medicines and to support those who are shielded to protect their own health.
‘The NHS Volunteer Responders is a new scheme set up so that people can come and help and to make sure that the NHS and the local services that are needed get all the support that they can.’
Hancock also said that the call made on the weekend for people to return to the NHS has been ‘incredibly successful so far’ with 11,788 people signing up so far.
‘I pay tribute to each and every one of those who are returning to the NHS at its hour of need’.
As part of the covid-19 call to action, 5,500 final year medics and 18,700 final year student nurses will be fast-tracked into full time NHS work.
In addition, the government is converting Excel Exhibition Centre into a 4,000 bed emergency hospital.