latest health care news

04.12.18

Volunteers help ‘reduce pressure’ on NHS frontline, but clarity needed over role boundaries

Frontline NHS staff have praised the “invaluable contribution” volunteers play in the hospitals and reducing mounting pressures, but a lack of clarity around role boundaries is the biggest danger facing voluntary work.

An estimated 78,000 volunteers work in NHS hospitals nationwide, which the King’s Fund has found to add value and as they carry out a diverse range of activities that frontline staff don’t have time to.

The study, conducted for the Royal Voluntary Service, looked at the perceptions of frontline NHS staff about operational pressures, and found that staff appreciated volunteers “provided they were not being used as substitutes for paid staff.”

The report warned that volunteers should never be required to do the work of trained staff, and stressed the importance of the NHS making full use of volunteers amid a “once-in a generation” NHS workforce crisis.

The think tank found that this lack of knowledge about the limits of volunteers “could lead to tensions between staff and volunteers.”

But over 70% of all NHS staff interviewed agreed that volunteering in hospitals was adding value for patients, staff, and for volunteers themselves. The majority also said they enjoyed working with volunteers.

Staff cited volunteers’ ability to support staff by freeing up their time so they could prioritise clinical care, acting as an extra pair of eyes and hands and carrying outs practical tasks such as picking up medicine from pharmacies and escorting patients around hospitals.

Richard Murray, director of policy at the King’s Fund, commented: “Understanding this is critical if the welcome step-change in health policy and support for volunteering is to translate to practical success on the ground.

“We encourage NHS bosses to sit up and take note of the critical role their staff say volunteers play in enhancing patient experience.”

One respondent said volunteers’ value lay in “bringing human kindness to a busy ward,” with three in four saying volunteers helped them care for patients, and a third believing volunteers help free up their time.

The King’s Fund said there was an appetite to get more volunteers involved in more aspects of hospital work, and stated that staff felt the impact of volunteers could be increased through better knowledge and guidelines about their roles.

Catherine Johnstone, chief executive of Royal Voluntary Service, said: “We know the difference they make, from improving patient experience to allowing more time for doctors and nurses to concentrate on clinical care.”

“But the perceptions of frontline NHS staff on the issue have, to date, been largely overlooked. The report highlights both opportunities and challenges, which we need to embrace and tackle if we want to successfully scale up voluntary service in hospitals.”

Image credit - sturti

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

national health executive tv

more videos >

featured articles

View all News

last word

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad, president of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), sits down with National Health Executive as part of our Last Word Q&A series. Would you talk us throu more > more last word articles >

health service focus

View all News

comment

NHS England dementia director prescribes rugby for mental health and dementia patients

23/09/2019NHS England dementia director prescribes rugby for mental health and dementia patients

Reason to celebrate as NHS says watching rugby can be good for your mental ... more >
Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >

interviews

Matt Hancock says GP recruitment is on the rise to support ‘bedrock of the NHS’

24/10/2019Matt Hancock says GP recruitment is on the rise to support ‘bedrock of the NHS’

Today, speaking at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) annual... more >

the scalpel's daily blog

AAC, PHPs & Me: Could the life sciences sector benefit the NHS?

30/06/2020AAC, PHPs & Me: Could the life sciences sector benefit the NHS?

Matt Roberts, NHE Editorial Lead Yes, would be the simple answer. There are significant skills and expertise within the sector which the NHS could tap into; that much has... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

editor's comment

26/06/2020Adapting and Innovating

Matt Roberts, National Health Executive Editorial Lead. NHE May/June 2020 Edition We’ve been through so much as a health sector and a society in recent months with coronavirus and nothing can take away from the loss and difficulties that we’ve faced but it vital we also don’t disregard the amazing efforts we’ve witnessed. Staff have gone above and beyond, whole hospitals and trusts have flexed virtually at will to meet demand and pressures and we’ve... read more >