Telephone Befriender/Phone bank

Tags: Guidance, Toolkit

16th March 2021



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We would like to thank the Volunteering team at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for sharing with us this role description. Please note that this is only an example, which can be edited for your Trust’s need.


The telephone befriender role aims to support patients and staff members during this time of increased pressure on NHS services due to Covid-19 (Coronavirus). This role allows volunteers to support their local hospitals from their own home. Many patients are going to feel isolated and lonely due to restrictions on visitors. Volunteers will be paired up with patients who they can call at a mutually convenient time. The goal is to provide them with company. They will be given a conversation prompt and a list of patients’ interests so that volunteers have something to help start the conversation. Where possible, the Trust will try to pair the volunteer with someone of a similar age and of similar interests. In order to protect the volunteer’s personal data and that of the patient, the volunteer will be calling the bedside phone of each patient rather than their personal phone.

The phone bank volunteers will be calling patients regarding their appointments and procedures at the Trust. During this period there will be many appointments that need to be postponed or rearranged. They will be supervised by Trust staff to call and engage with patients across a number of departments. They will receive a phone script and any other relevant guidance in order to carry out the role. The volunteers will be assigned to one of the wards or departments depending on where the need is and on their availability.

What tasks can telephone befriender volunteers do?

  • Making regular phone call to one or more patients depending on their availability
  • Raising any concerns about the patient with a designated member of staff
  • Keeping a note of interactions, being careful to observe the Trust’s guidelines on protecting the personal information of patients

What tasks can phone bank volunteers do?

  • Calling patients regarding their appointments; to check they are coming, to rearrange, or to postpone
  • Fielding queries from members of the public
  • Directing calls to the relevant parts of the hospital
  • Supporting the Patient Advice and Liaison (PALs) team

Boundaries (What volunteers won’t do):

  • No clinical care of patients
  • No clinical advice
  • No disclosure of patients’ personal information to anyone except relevant staff
  • No using patients’ information for personal gains
  • No lifting of heavy equipment

Pre-placement checks:

  • Volunteers must have an enhanced criminal record check (DBS) for this role. If they do not have one already then the Trust should organise for one.
  • The Phone bank volunteer role requires that they have certain immunisations and they will need to complete a health declaration form.

Who are they?


Age: Volunteers must be 16 years or older to volunteer in this role

Accessibility: This role is accessible to people with wheelchairs or who have other mobility issues

Health: Volunteers should be in a low risk health group. Vulnerable adults, those considered at an increased risk of severe illness or those caring for vulnerable adults are not suitable. (More information can be found here). COVID-19 exposure: Those who have symptoms of COVID-19, been exposed to those suffering from COVID-19 or recently returned from high risk countries (including Italy, Iran and China) are not suitable volunteers until after a 14 day isolation period.

As a volunteer they will embody the Trust’s values:

  • Putting patients first
  • Responsive to, and supportive of, patients and staff
  • Open, welcoming and honest
  • Unfailingly kind, treating everyone with respect, compassion and dignity
  • Determined to develop skills and continuously improve the quality of care

Skills and other requirements:

  • Be self-motivated with an ability to think on their feet and work independently
  • Be punctual and dependable
  • Have a professional and friendly demeanour
  • Have a calm and professional phone manner
  • Be able to hold a good telephone conversation; good listening and conversational skills
  • Be flexible and eager to learn
  • Be resilient. Some patients might be distressed, and listening to them can be stressful for some

What training should be considered?

Core volunteer training covered in induction may include:

  • Health and Safety
  • Information Governance
  • Infection Control
  • Fire Safety
  • Manual and Handling

Depending on their tasks, specialist training may include:

  • Effective phone communications training

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