Network members discussion group on volunteers supporting patients post discharge

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Created by Debbie Ambrose
Last updated 3 months ago

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23 February 2023 at 3:45pm


There is a great desire in health and care for volunteers to get more involved in supporting discharge; getting people home quicker and providing any required support once the patient gets home, ultimately cutting down on readmissions. To do this successfully there need to be better links with community organisations in the voluntary sector.

There is already a lot of collaborative work going on across community organisations between acute and VCSE organisations and there was some great advice from Kirsty at VANS who recommended that the first thing you should do if you want to make inroads in your local infrastructure is to contact your local CVS for good community contacts.

What volunteers are already doing in the community

Many already give support to those who have recently been discharged or wish their end-of-life care to be at home. Practical tasks such as dog walking, cutting the grass, shopping, collecting prescriptions and cleaning can all help to maintain independence and improve wellbeing. With support, volunteers can also assist with emotional wellbeing by doing light touch counselling. Volunteers can also provide support to carers by sitting with a loved one to allow time for a break or to attend appointments.

Virtual digital volunteering as a way of supporting people post discharge is popular. Most people agree that COVID presented opportunities for working virtually and adjusting to the technology – this can be a huge benefit to patients as they return home from hospital.

Royal Marsden is starting to think about extending their phone call support service to include face-to-face support.

Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust has made plans to engage regularly with local organisations and they run popular bi-monthly meetups - local voluntary sector organisations are responding well to acute trusts who are reaching out into the community.

An impressive project called PIVOT started in 2013 and has so far supported 7,000 people across Pembrokeshire. The service was developed to prevent hospital admissions, facilitate discharge arrangements and reduce support required from statutory agencies. The equivalent of this support could transfer to other areas.

Read more about it PIVOT deliver vital services in Pembrokeshire

Discharge is equally as important in mental health trusts as acute services. Providing meaningful activities from arts and crafts to walking in the community helps to alleviate loneliness and isolation.

One such service said that “The people using the service are making new friends and joining in other activities. Some have even gone on to volunteer. Feedback has been that it has been life changing and lifesaving.” This is a great example of a longer-term intervention that is keeping people well and out of services. Current service users now get the opportunity to volunteer as they are nearing discharge. This then becomes part of their discharge plan and because they are making a meaningful contribution to reduce the risk of readmission.

Nasir from NHS England and Improvement shared with us that they are producing some updated guidance for NHS volunteer managers which is very much focused on simplifying the process for volunteer recruitment and onboarding. This guidance should be available within the next six months.

There are always challenges to getting a new service up and running.

  • Recruitment and retaining volunteers
  • Lack of clinical leadership
  • Capacity
  • Funding
  • Information sharing
  • Aversion to risk

Our website is packed with information and resources that may help you overcome some of the challenges you may be facing. Here are just a few examples:

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