Volunteer army worth £487million to Britain’s healthcare system


Volunteers=Care Industry NewsBritain’s healthcare system is supported by an army of 1.9million volunteers who dedicate 123 million hours each year to helping others, new research by older people’s charity Royal Voluntary Service (formerly WRVS) reveals today.


Recent research[1] found that most ward nurses say time pressures force them to ‘ration’ their care, making the work of volunteers who provide vital support for patients more vital than ever. Many Britons believe volunteers in hospitals would significantly impact on patient care – fifty five per cent of people feel there would be fewer instances of patient neglect if there were more volunteers in hospitals.


Released to celebrate the contribution volunteers make as part of this year’s Volunteers’ Week, running this week from 1 – 7 June, the charity found that the incredible contribution of Britain’s volunteers is worth more than £487million a year[2] to the health service at a time when research shows one in five hospitals are heading into deficit[3]. The contribution made by the charity’s 14,000 hospital volunteers is worth £2.75million alone.


Nearly two thirds (60 per cent) of Britons believe that volunteers play a vital role in the NHS, and 63 per cent agree that they provide essential emotional support to patients when doctors and nurses are stretched for time. However, more than half (54 per cent) said they feel the work of volunteers should be better utilised to help relieve the pressure on the health service.


David McCullough, Royal Voluntary Service Chief Executive, said: “The help provided by volunteers to the health service mustn’t be underestimated. Although their work may be simple, it is a source of vital support and we know that the emotional benefits volunteers offer to patients can make a real difference to wellbeing. However, to continue to help more people during a hospital stay or on a return home, we need more volunteers to come forward and dedicate just a couple of hours a week, or whatever they can.”


The research also found:

  • Seventy-three per cent of Brits believe the work of volunteers is very important
  • Fifty-eight per cent agree that volunteering in healthcare is rewarding because you can see improvements in the patients you support
  • Forty-nine per cent say they would feel reassured by the presence of a volunteer on a hospital ward


According to a recent FOI request[4] hundreds of older people are being discharged from hospital in the middle of the night, regardless of whether there is any support for them when they get home. Royal Voluntary Service also conducted research which found that volunteer support on a return home from hospital can reduce readmissions by 50 per cent[5].


Royal Voluntary Service supports over 100,000 older people each month to stay independent in their own homes for longer with tailor made solutions. Through its army of more than 35,000 volunteers, the charity runs services such as Good Neighbours (companionship), Meals-on-Wheels and Books-on-Wheels that alleviate loneliness and help older people. Royal Voluntary Service also provides practical support for older people who have been in hospital through its On Ward Befriending and Home from Hospital services.


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