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Volunteers have a ‘critical role’ in NHS care

The NHS could do much more to make the most of volunteers, a new report by The King’s Fund has suggested.

For every pound invested in volunteering in the health service, an £11 return is delivered. There are nearly 500 volunteers in the average acute trust, contributing over 13 million hours of work each year, but numbers are not necessarily linked to the size of the trust.

Sponsored by the DH, the research states that volunteers have a “critical role” to improve patient experience and that trusts should formally measure the impact of volunteers, with more analysis to understand the benefits they can bring.

Volunteers can help to deliver befriending services, support data collection, or helping patients to eat well, amongst other duties.

Over the next three years, 87% of survey respondents expect the number of NHS volunteers to increase, and new volunteers tend to be younger than five years ago, and more ethnically diverse.

Amy Galea, senior researcher at The King’s Fund and lead author of the report, said: “Volunteering has a critical role to play in improving services for patients. It supports many national aspirations such as improving the experience of patients, building stronger relationships between services and communities and creating social value.

“Our survey shows that volunteers are being used in increasingly imaginative ways which are valued highly by patients, staff and the public. The challenge now is for the NHS to develop in more detail its understanding of the impact that volunteers have – this should help to enable all hospitals to harness the potential of volunteering.”

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