NHS Charities Together to recruit 60,000 army of ambulance service volunteers

NHS Charities Together has announced plans to recruit tens of thousands more volunteers to support ambulance services across the UK.

The charity has allocated £7m from its Covid-19 appeal fund to ramp up the number of ‘community first responders’ and other emergency volunteers who work with ambulance services.

The aim is to ease pressure on the ambulance service during the pandemic.

‘Community first responders’ are trained volunteers who are sent to emergency incidents, to administer swift, basic life support until an ambulance service arrives.

The £7m funding aims to recruit 60,000 ambulance service volunteers as well as improve emergency equipment and buy dedicated first responder group cars to reach incidents quickly.

Training in the community to respond to incidents such as suspected cardiac arrest, is another focus.

“At this time of immense challenge for the NHS we are delighted that we can make a real difference and ultimately help save lives by funding wonderful community first responder volunteers within the ambulance service,” said NHS Charities Together chief executive Ellie Orton.

“It’s thanks to the overwhelming support of the British public at this difficult time that we are able to fund these vital projects – the NHS has been doing an amazing job but as an independent charity we can provide additional support to help the NHS do more than it otherwise could.”

The funding has been made available to NHS charities based with 13 ambulance trusts across the UK. The first of the funded projects will be with ambulance services in London, the North West, South Central, South Western and Yorkshire.

Embed volunteer boom within NHS

The NHS Charities Together funding plan comes as a report by the Royal Voluntary Service says that the increasing interest in volunteering amid the health crisis should be “permanently embedded” into the NHS and social care.

The Volunteering, Covid and Integrated Care report is based on analysis of locally delivered volunteer programmes such as the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme, delivered by the RVS and GoodSAM. This galvanised around 400,000 volunteers to help people in the community, through lifts to doctor appointments as well as delivering shopping.

“Experience across the country over the past year has changed the perception of volunteers in the NHS,” said report author Jeremy Hughes, who is a former chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society.

“I found NHS and social care leaders recognise this change, but systems have yet to catch up. A new partnership that positions volunteers contributing alongside staff to best support patients is now possible.”

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