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Five key steps to accelerate and grow the impact of volunteering in our health and care services

26th January 2021

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This blog was written by Mark Lever, Helpforce CEO

One of the few highlights of the last year was the response from an unprecedented number of people and organisations who stepped forward selflessly to support the national and local response to the Covid crisis.

It makes me shudder to think how much worse the situation would have been if the response from the voluntary sector and individual volunteers had not been there.

If ever there was a time when we should think about how we can accelerate and grow the impact of volunteering in our health and care services this is surely it.

Over the last 12 months Helpforce has been privileged to work with many NHS trusts and Integrated Care Systems to support their volunteering activity. From delivering the Volunteering Innovators Programme, we know that volunteers bring measurable benefits to NHS Trusts, their staff and their patients. 71% of nurses agreed that receiving support from volunteers helped them feel less stressed and 61% of patients who are supported by volunteers feel that their healthcare provider is interested in them as a whole, really listening. This has led us to believe that certain actions should be taken to further embed volunteering within our health and care services.

1. Learn the lessons from civil emergency contingency planning

For many many years the voluntary sector has a proud tradition of supporting local emergency planning at times of civil crisis. Many of us will remember examples of the response from great national organisations like the British Red Cross, St John Ambulance and the RVS at times of extreme weather conditions. We need to reflect on the past 12 months and consider how we could further build a response to health and care crises into our local emergency plans and involve more local voluntary organisations in these plans.

2. Give volunteering a seat at the top table

If volunteering is going to be taken seriously across integrated care systems then volunteering leadership needs to sit at the top table and be involved in decisions on service design and funding.

3. Invest in local management and infrastructure

The tremendous local response from volunteers and the voluntary sector was incredibly impressive. If we want this response to be sustainable we need to invest in its management and infrastructure. Targeted investment in local organisations will resource them to develop systems for collaboration and communication that will enable them to respond more quickly and collaboratively in the future.

4. Design volunteering into service delivery

If volunteering is to be seen as more than a nice to have or an optional add-on then we must do more to design volunteering into our health and care service delivery models.

Involving the voluntary sector and local volunteers in the design of health and care services will enable us to rethink and re-model health and care delivery at a local level.

5.Measure impact

If we are to increase the impact of volunteer services it is important that we capture data on impacts and look at ways of constantly improving them. The delivery of services involving volunteers should be no different to other services . They need to be reviewed and monitored to seek ways to improve, accelerate and grow them across the system.

If any of these ideas resonate with you and you would like to learn more about how you can accelerate the growth and impact of volunteering in your Trust or Integrated Care System we would love to talk to you.

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Let us know how we can help to accelerate the growth and impact of volunteering in your organisation.