Supporting existing volunteers

COVID-19 sources of external staffing

Many of your existing volunteers will be extremely familiar with your services. They will be known and trusted by staff and could receive training to upskill them to temporarily provide a service normally undertaken by a paid staff member, during periods of absence. If volunteers are upskilled in this way, they should be appropriately paid or compensated for their time. They should no longer be referred to as volunteers for the period they are working.

It is recommended that any new roles developed in this way are co-produced with staff, volunteers and with staff-side organisations.

Reviewing your current volunteers and their roles is essential. Having volunteers as part of your workforce will reduce pressure on key services and we would encourage employers to review where these individuals would have best effect. Key roles, such as supporting discharge processes in discharge lounges, providing home from hospital support and transport are some of the activities volunteers could focus on. See more roles in the recruiting new volunteers’ section.

Health, safety and wellbeing of volunteers

Managers should identify those who fall within the at-risk or vulnerable categories as described in government guidelines and discuss their roles. Volunteers may also have caring responsibilities outside of their NHS role and may wish to temporarily cease volunteering, or managers can consider redeploying them to another role or voluntary sector organisation.

If you are able to support remote working, roles in peer support or appointment reminder services could be beneficial. Government and NHS advice to the public should be highlighted to volunteers, making them aware they must stop their role should they become unwell.

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 through this challenging period. 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.


Why Register?

Great reasons to register with NHS Employers

  • A personalised website
    Manage your profile and select topics of interest to you
  • Access your dashboard
    Bookmark useful content to help you quickly find what you're looking for
  • Get involved
    Contribute to our Talking Points discussions, comment on and rate our webpages
  • Keep up to date
    Receive the latest newsletters and media summaries

Log In