Recruiting new volunteers

COVID-19 sources of external staffing

The number of people wanting to volunteer with healthcare providers is likely to increase. You may get direct approaches through established links on your website, via voluntary organisations you have partnerships with, or through local companies wishing to support the COVID-19 response with staff they cannot utilise at present.

In 2017, NHS England produced guidance which advised volunteer recruitment processes should include application forms, face-to-face interviews, pre-volunteering checks and references to be submitted before commencing volunteering. 

Their recent guidelines advise a pragmatic approach to allow the process to progress quickly, yet safely. Our pre-employment section covers current arrangements for using video conferencing for interviews, the verification of original documents, identity and right to work plus information on work health assessments and employment history/reference.

Recent changes in legislation made by the Disclosure and Barring Service allow employers to fast track DBS checks to allow individuals to start volunteering in a regulated activity where a risk assessment has been undertaken and appropriate safeguards have been put in place to monitor and/or supervise the individual, until the full disclosure has been received. Unpaid volunteers will remain eligible for a free DBS check. More information can be found in guidance our COVID-19 pre-employment check guidance.

Different volunteering roles

The volunteering roles that will best support the workforce during the COVID-19 outbreak will vary across NHS organisations, depending on the nature of the service, existing roles, the capacity of the service to include volunteers and an organisation’s partnerships with voluntary sector organisations. Any guidance you apply to your trusts’ volunteers should also apply to those provided by a third party.

The list below includes roles that 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

NHS England and NHS Improvement has collated volunteer role descriptions and training packages from NHS trusts for roles that can reduce pressure on services on an NHS Futures platform. Access to the platform can be requested by contacting england.volunteering@nhs.net.

In addition, NHS England and NHS Improvement is developing new volunteer roles, in conjunction with trusts, in response to the changing needs of patients and staff as the COVID-19 incident proceeds.

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