750,000 volunteers recruited to tackle coronavirus

The Royal Voluntary Service has announced that the number of people committing to join the NHS coronavirus effort is three times higher than initially targeted.

The NHS Volunteer Responders recruitment initiative has recruited 750,000 people just two days after the target was increased after hitting its initial quarter of a million target within less than 24 hours. The drive will now be temporarily paused to enable the charity to process the applications and work together with the NHS to get the volunteer army up and running.

Those volunteering will be helping the NHS by performing one of four vital roles which help people without compromising strict government advice on self-isolation and social distancing. This could be a: Community Response volunteer; Patient Transport volunteer; NHS Transport volunteer; or a Check in and Chat volunteer.

A Community Response volunteer will collect shopping, medication or other essential supplies for someone who is self-isolating, and deliver these supplies to their home. A Patient Transport volunteer will support the NHS by providing transport to patients who are medically fit for discharge, and ensure that they are settled safely back in to their home. NHS Transport volunteers will transport equipment, supplies and/or medication between NHS services and sites, and possibly also assist pharmacies with medication delivery. Lastly, a Check in and Chat volunteer provides short-term telephone support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness as a consequence of self-isolation.

Catherine Johnstone, chief executive of Royal Voluntary Service, said: “On Tuesday evening, Royal Voluntary Service readied itself to launch the biggest call out for volunteers in England since the Second World War. Less than 24 hours later, we had hit our target of 250,000 sign-ups and today that number is at 750,000. We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the response and cannot thank the public enough. As history shows, it is often in times of crisis that we pull together and become our best selves.

“Our team is now working flat out with colleagues in NHS England to process the many thousands of applications we’ve received, so we can get volunteers up and running as soon as possible and matched with patients that they can begin to support. Due to the enormous volume of applications, we have now paused recruitment and ask anyone who is still interested in volunteering to wait a few weeks for the application process to reopen. This will enable our team to focus on getting the first tranche of volunteers checked and out into the community. We fully expect that more volunteers will be required, and we will be issuing an update on areas of the country and roles that we still need to fill as soon as we can.”