Volunteers play a very important role in the NHS. Working in a range of settings and providing a variety of services alongside paid staff, volunteers are often a key part of patient services.
There are already thousands of volunteers in the NHS, involved in services ranging from mentoring, befriending and peer support through to assisting with recycling, working in hospital radio or cafes and even fish tank maintenance. Volunteering can help people to gain new skills and experience and, for some, can provide a stepping stone to paid employment.
Someone who is admitted to hospital for a routine appointment, for example, may meet many different volunteers who will not only greet them as they arrive in the clinic, but may also sell them a drink at the cafe, make sure they’re comfortable once in the clinic, or help feed them if they’re unable to do so themselves.
Individuals are motivated to volunteer for the NHS for many reasons which include:
Andrew Russ volunteered with a consultant clinical psychologist at Medway Maritime Hospital for one day a week whilst he was at university. His experience of volunteering led him to apply for a paid assistant psychologist role after graduating and was offered the job. Andrew says: “My experience of volunteering has been extremely useful. I know a lot about the service and the people who work in it…the transition has been much smoother than it would otherwise have been.”
Lynda Davies is a volunteer in the League of Hospital Friends’ coffee bar at Mid Staffordshire General Hospitals NHS Trust. She applied after seeing an advert in her local paper. Lynda says: “I thoroughly enjoy working here, I love meeting people each day and I always want to come to work. If you are thinking about volunteering in your local NHS trust, give it a go as I think you’ll really enjoy it.”
There are various routes into volunteering. Some voluntary roles may be advertised on NHS Jobs. Alternatively, contact your local NHS organisation for information about opportunities available. Some trusts employ a volunteer coordinator or you could contact the HR department. You can find contact details for your local NHS organisations here. Additionally, you may be able to access opportunities in a healthcare setting through volunteering organisations such as Volunteering England and Do it!
Whilst volunteering is an activity that is undertaken without concern for financial gain, it is good practice for volunteers to be reimbursed for their out of pocket expenses. You may need to have an informal interview, and may also need a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS formerly CRB) check if appropriate. Depending on the role, you could be provided with training.