Creating a volunteer 'passport'

Source: NHE Nov/Dec 2018

By utilising the health service’s volunteers, we can deliver better care for everyone, argues Kay Fawcett OBE, clinical project lead at HelpForce.

Volunteers take on a range of vital roles in the NHS to improve the lives of staff, patients, and our communities. By harnessing the power of dedicated and caring volunteers, we can create a more compassionate care system for all of us. Developing and providing the right training is an essential part of this. To ensure that volunteers have a good experience and are given the opportunity to make a big difference, we must embed high-quality training for both volunteers and their Volunteer Service Managers (VSMs).

To ensure that volunteers maximise their benefit to the NHS, they are supported by VSMs in each trust. These staff work to support the volunteers and act as the interface between the volunteer and service areas. Using a series of complex communication and organisational skills, they are often the invisible engine in the complicated machine that is volunteer support. They make sure that the ‘wheels are on the trolley,’ and that volunteers are able to feel valued whilst having a meaningful personal impact upon the patients and staff that they support. The development of VSMs is a key step in starting to grow the roles in which volunteers can be engaged. It is a great opportunity for them to gain academic credit for their organisational and leadership skills as they create exciting new volunteer roles in their hospitals.

We are working with VSMs to co-design the process for their development and gather valuable insight into the training needs of volunteers. HelpForce sees this as a vital step in its work. By supporting VSMs and volunteers with consistent training and development offers, we are one step closer to maintaining the long-term future of volunteering in health and care.

When considering the training needed for the volunteer community, there are a number of issues to think about. Volunteering attracts a huge range of people from all walks of life. From older volunteers sharing their skills to the younger volunteers bringing their energy and enthusiasm to new tasks, there is a diverse range of people building extra capacity into the NHS. Training is needed to prepare these people for their roles and also provide an opportunity, where desired, to use this learning and experience to acquire vital new skills, and potentially obtain paid work and a career within the health sector. Such training needs to produce safe and reliable volunteers to those they support, including NHS patients, services, and staff.

At the present time, volunteer training is locally delivered and is often specific to the trust in which they work, with topics and delivery methods varying considerably. HelpForce, working with Health Education England, is developing a standardised training framework with agreed outcomes. By creating a nationally recognised training programme, it will mean volunteers won’t have to redo their training at every organisation they join – a step on the journey to a volunteer passport.

The programme will be delivered locally, and we are working with providers to find ways to offer a certificate of accreditation linked to academic level for those that choose it. This will not only prepare volunteers for their new roles; it will also be invaluable for those wishing to develop skills for their career. This national training initiative will encourage more volunteers to join the NHS, especially young volunteers, and it will hopefully help those who are thinking of a career in the health service.


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