Number 10’s high profile launch of the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme has recruited three-quarters of a million people eager to help the NHS. We now need to make sure we mobilise that amazing public response to help healthcare professionals support those who are clinically most at risk from the impact of coronavirus or who are vulnerable in our communities.

We know it’s a very tough time for everyone in the country and there is no doubt our National Health and care services are under immense pressure. We see, and are immensely grateful for, the work community nurses are already doing, using their expert skills to keep people well and to deliver highly skilled care for those most vulnerable in our communities.

Around the country, those at highest risk have been advised by letter to shield themselves for the next three months, due to their underlying healthcare conditions that could put them at the greatest risk of serious consequences if they catch COVID-19. The scheme aims to support the non-clinical needs of those people, along with any others to whom we need to offer extra help and care at this time.  Community nurses play a vital role in identifying who they are in the local community.

NHS Volunteer Responders

The NHS Volunteer Responders is another layer of support and defence that we can all use to protect patients and there is an opportunity for you to influence where we focus that fantastic resource. You are an invaluable source of referrals for your patients and families who would benefit from the scheme, alongside other healthcare professionals and members of staff in local authorities and charities, who can identify someone who needs non-clinical support.

The scheme links those at high risk with volunteers who are willing to devote some time to helping with tasks in their local community. I must stress though that it’s not there to replace existing referral routes or volunteer recruitment programmes; it is there to complement where more help and extra resource is needed in these challenging times.

The four volunteer roles currently offered under NHS Volunteer Responders are:

  • community response volunteer: collecting and delivering shopping, medication or other essential supplies;
  • patient transport volunteer: transporting patients who are being discharged back home and to settling them safely back in;
  • NHS transport volunteer: transporting equipment, supplies and/or medication between NHS services and sites, and possibly also help pharmacies with medication delivery;
  • check in and chat volunteer: providing telephone support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness.

Identity checks are carried out for all volunteers, with an enhanced DBS check for those volunteering as patient transport drivers.  They won’t be assigned tasks via the app if they have not cleared these checks.

Making a referral

So, if you want to refer someone, what do you need to do? It’s a quick and easy process.  You can do it in two ways:  by telephoning 0808 196 3382 or submitting details online via the scheme portal at

Please have the following information to hand:

  • Details of the patient, their needs and who requires assistance
  • The type of support needed
  • How often support is required, and when.

Once that’s done, the request is sent automatically to ‘on duty’ volunteers local to the patient.  If you want to, you can elect to be able to track when the patient receives support, via the portal. You can also use the portal, or phone number to remove someone from the scheme if they no longer need assistance.

It’s as simple as that.  We know that the scheme won’t meet the needs of every individual patient. So, if there are other things that people need support with that don’t fit into the four main categories offered, please let us know by emailing

Thank you

Thank you to community nursing for all that you continue to do during this very challenging healthcare emergency.  We hope this scheme will be one way that we can all work together, with local people and communities, to provide your patients with wraparound support to meet their day-to-day challenges, supplementing the excellent services being delivered by the NHS and social care, and our wider partners.


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