COVID-19 sources of external staffing

There are more than 90,000 volunteers in NHS hospitals. There are a further 10,000 volunteers in ambulance trusts and significant numbers in primary care.

NHS England and NHS Improvement has published guidance to support the effective deployment of volunteers during the COVID-19 outbreak

The list below includes roles where volunteers could reduce pressure on staff and services, or improve patient outcomes. Please note, this list is not exhaustive:

  • pharmacy response volunteers
  • mealtime support volunteers
  • community first responders
  • signposting or directions
  • emergency department volunteers
  • discharge lounge volunteers
  • home from hospital support volunteers
  • community support volunteers

Some of your existing volunteers may have received training to upskill them to temporarily provide a service normally undertaken by a paid staff member, during the pandemic. They should have been paid appropriately or compensated for their time for the period worked.

Health, safety and wellbeing of volunteers

Preserving and protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of volunteers is critical for NHS organisations as they respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. It is essential that NHS organisations take every effort to support the physical and mental wellbeing of their volunteers, to enable them to stay healthy and protect themselves, colleagues, patients and families. Volunteers should be supported in the same way as staff, in accordance with the latest health, safety and wellbeing guidance.

Reviewing where your volunteers are within your hospital, in line with local visiting restrictions for patients, is a useful guide for risk assessment.


NHS Resolution have confirmed volunteers will be covered in new indemnity arrangements in response to COVID-19. Please visit our indemnity and litigation webpage for more information.

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