The NHS in England is set to relaunch part of its Volunteer Responders initiative and refer vulnerable, lonely or isolated people to friendly phone calls offering encouragement and support.
Established during the pandemic in 2020, the Check in and Chat service is designed to help those in need carry out tasks like shopping, fetching medication and getting lifts to medical appointments, as well as, when appropriate, support patients make positive lifestyle changes.
With thousands of volunteers already signed up for the service, and thousands more expected in the coming weeks, the move comes after insight from GPs and social prescribers indicated that many of their patients weren’t as socially connected as they were before the pandemic.
Further analysis of a poll of clinicians who used the service during the pandemic also showed that almost 80% were likely to use it, whilst nearly 90% said the service would meet current patient needs. Around 75% of healthcare professionals who responded said a revitalised Check in and Chat would complement already existing services.
NHS England’s Chief Nursing Officer, Ruth May, said: “We are extremely grateful to our incredible volunteers who support the NHS and the British public, including during our greatest time of need in the pandemic.
“It is fantastic that over a thousand volunteers have now signed up again to provide these invaluable calls for patients that are vulnerable, isolated or lonely, and to help our staff in providing the best care possible.
“It is very easy for GPs, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare workers to refer patients to the Check in and Chat service through a simple online platform – and we know what a difference a neighbourly phone call can make if you’re feeling isolated or in need of some support.”
The health service says the reintroduction of the service represents the next stage of its volunteer programme after approximately 400,000 volunteers carried out more than two million support tasks during the pandemic.
NHS Medical Director Professor Sir Stephen Powis, added: “Volunteers played a vital role in helping us deliver the biggest and most successful vaccination programme in health history and in our 75th year, they continue to help us to save lives.”