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Unlocking the potential of volunteers

10 January 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 1


Sam Foster, Chief Nurse, Oxford University Hospitals, considers the need for an evidence base for a best practice NHS volunteer model to improve care quality, rather than using volunteers as a means to cut costs and training initiatives that could include enabling volunteers to switch careers

I have always valued the contribution that volunteers make to the experience of staff and patients. Many NHS organisations have a strong embedded approach to the recruitment and deployment of volunteers, and many of us would love to develop our current position to fully realise the volunteer potential.

Galea et al (2013) reviewed the role of volunteering within health care for The King's Fund and found that:

Galea et al (2013) suggested that healthcare providers should strengthen their strategic approach towards volunteering and focus on volunteering as a means of improving quality rather than cutting costs.

Progress within the NHS has varied. A simple web search of ‘volunteering in hospitals' showcases a number of glossy ‘how to volunteer’ approaches, but appears a little transactional, with one organisation closed to applicants due to a high volume of interest.

I was therefore delighted recently when, during a conversation, a colleague shared an exciting campaign she that is involved in, working with the charitable organisation Helpforce. This is a community interest company founded by philanthropist and health leader Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett, who is now Chair of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. He welcomed the opportunity to develop a national programme to promote the role and value of volunteering in hospitals and highlight the value of volunteer-centred innovation and improvement across the UK (Hughes-Hallett, 2018).

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