Millions of vulnerable people and their families will be able to directly call on the army of NHS Volunteer Responders, the NHS and Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) have announced.
More than 600,000 volunteers have been approved to help those most at risk who are isolating at home from coronavirus – more than double the original target of 250,00.
The scheme has been fully operational for more than two weeks, with healthcare practitioners, pharmacists and local authority and social care staff calling on volunteers to carry out around 35,000 tasks to date. These have included delivering medicines, shopping and other supplies as well as making calls to check in on those isolating at home.
Now the NHS and RVS are taking steps to make the service more personalised for people who need support and to raise awareness of the programme in GP practices, pharmacies and with local authorities and social care providers.
The huge number of volunteers who have stepped forward means the NHS and RVS can help not just the estimated 1.5 million people being ‘shielded’ from the virus, but also other people identified as vulnerable or receiving care in the community.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “The public has stepped up in numbers even greater than we hoped, to give their time supporting the heroic efforts of NHS and social care staff fighting this virus at the frontline.
“Our partners at the Royal Voluntary Service and GoodSAM have worked flat out to check and approve tens of thousands of applications every day – an incredible undertaking in itself – and we now have more than half a million people ready to get to work and support their neighbours. The scale of the public response means volunteers will be brought in to help look after a wider group of people who need support from this army of volunteers.
“Where a vulnerable person may not have friends and family able to help, they will be able to put in a call to ask for volunteer support.”
Co-founders of GoodSAM, Mark Wilson and Ali Ghorbanghli, said: “By opening the referral system so that those in need can directly request help, the NHS, RVS and the GoodSAM platform will be able to provide even greater support during the Coronavirus crisis. Once again we would like to thank the Volunteers for all they are doing.”
One of the army of volunteers is 34-year-old Joel Charles, from Old Harlow, in Essex. He said: “I received my first task last week, which was to collect a bulk prescription for an elderly couple who had been very anxious about being able to get their prescriptions.
“It was encouraging to see their faces and the sense of relief when I was able to deliver it to their doorstep. I was just delighted to be of service. I have now delivered three more prescriptions and responded to a separate query from a resident via the app.”
To find out more about how to ask for help from a Volunteer Responder, click here.