We explain all you need to know about our Christmas NHS campaign

It’s so simple to join, so what are you waiting for? Here, we explain all you need to know about joining our NHS Christmas campaign

  • The Daily Mail and Helpforce invite you to join our new Christmas NHS campaign 
  • This can involve giving just one day a month or three hours a week for six months
  • Volunteers free up time for healthcare workers to focus on delivering vital care
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Why does the NHS need volunteers?

Volunteers can help provide better experiences for patients, and free up time for healthcare workers to focus on delivering the incredible work they’ve been trained to do.

And while there are thousands of volunteers carrying out vital work in the NHS, there is so much more we can do. That’s where the Join the Hospital Helpforce campaign comes in — the aim is to harness the power of dedicated and caring volunteers to create a more compassionate care system for all of us.

What is Helpforce?

It’s a charity that works with the NHS, healthcare workers and the public to promote the benefits of volunteering —helping to expand the range and quality of volunteer roles and the number of volunteers involved in our NHS.

Helping hand: 18-year-old volunteer Max Whitfield (left) on the respiratory ward with 67-year-old patient Normal Gooldring, from Aldershot (right)

Are volunteers replacing staff roles?

No — they provide extra help that wouldn’t be covered by a staff role. NHS Trusts need volunteers as they provide a valuable support role to busy staff and to patients who are going through a difficult time.

Volunteers can make the difference to someone’s day by providing simple but significant support. Many volunteers enjoy it so much they take up employment in the NHS, helping to fill the health service’s 100,000 job vacancies.

What’s the minimum I have to commit to?

Helpforce is asking people to commit to three consecutive hours a week for six months, or one day a month for six months. NHS staff say that for volunteers to make a difference, they need to commit to at least this time as this gives them continuity and a reliable source of help. You can, of course, ask to do more hours and for a longer period of time.

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Do I need particular qualifications?

No — NHS organisations are looking for volunteers who are willing to learn. While your existing skills will be useful, you will be provided with training. If you have any specific skills, please note these on your pledge when you sign up.

Is there an upper or lower age limit?

Helpforce hasn’t got a maximum age as there are many examples of older volunteers doing great work.

The minimum age is 16. However, not all NHS organisations are able to take volunteers until the age of 18 due to their own policies. 

If you are aged between 16 and 18, Helpforce will do its best to place you with a local NHS organisation, but opportunities are more limited. 

Youth groups #iwill and the Pears Foundation are together aiming to increase the number of volunteering opportunities for young people — visit iwill.org.uk for details.

I have mobility issues, can I apply?

Yes. The NHS can accommodate volunteers with mobility issues and/or long-term conditions.

Can I choose which hospital I work in?

In the first instance, Helpforce will try to match you with an NHS organisation near to where you live. If your local NHS organisation doesn’t have capacity, Helpforce can pass your details to organisations such as the Royal Voluntary Service, Marie Curie and the British Red Cross, as they bring volunteers to work across many parts of the NHS. Some health trusts hold their own waiting lists and you could be added to those if you prefer.

Am I guaranteed a place?

Helpforce can’t guarantee that every person who pledges will get a place, but will endeavour to place as many people with their local NHS organisation as possible. 

The majority of the volunteer roles Helpforce expects to be filled through this campaign will take place in hospitals, but many volunteers will be placed in community healthcare settings to support NHS organisations.

Support: Helpforce can’t guarantee that every person who pledges will get a place, but will endeavour to place as many people with their local NHS organisation as possible

Are all the UK hospitals covered?

Not all NHS organisations are able to take volunteers. Helpforce will work with those that have volunteer schemes and are recruiting.

Including Scotland, Wales & N. Ireland?

Yes — Helpforce is welcoming volunteers from across the UK.

How do I sign up?

Visit hospitalhelpforce.com and fill in the pledge form. Once you’ve completed it, you should hear back immediately with a thank-you email, then again in late January or early February once Helpforce has matched you with an NHS organisation. If you don’t hear by the end of February, please go to the Frequently Asked Questions section of the website.

What training will I get?

Training varies between NHS organisations, but all of it will help keep you safe and give you the skills to make you feel confident when volunteering on a busy ward with staff and patients.

A training session would typically include some or all of the following elements: health and safety, fire training, equality and diversity, safeguarding, conflict resolution, information governance, infection control. Training will vary depending on the role you are taking up.

What do they need to know about me?

Once you have been matched to an NHS organisation, you will be asked to meet its volunteer coordinator. They will want to find out about you, your experience, interests and motivation to volunteer. You will be asked to fill in an application form.

If you both agree that you want to proceed, you will have simple health and criminal record checks. These are called an occupational health check and a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

An occupational health check helps to ensure volunteers are safe and able to work in the healthcare environment — it is usually very simple and straightforward.

A DBS check enables employers to access the criminal records of current and potential employees to confirm whether they are suitable to work with vulnerable adults and children. It is a legal requirement and can take some time to complete.

You may also be required to provide a reference. Your data will be fully protected throughout.

Visible: Volunteers like Max usually wear T-shirts or uniforms provided by the NHS organisation that identify them as volunteers

Are uniforms and expenses provided?

Volunteers usually wear T-shirts or uniforms provided by the NHS organisation that identify them as volunteers. Helpforce recommends you discuss this with the volunteer co-ordinator when you have been placed.

Each NHS organisation has its own expenses policy. Again, this is something to discuss with the volunteer co-ordinator.

How long will it be before I start?

Helpforce is keen that you start volunteering as soon as possible, but the process may take several months. Once the charity has put your NHS organisation in touch with you, it can take up to three months, and in some cases six months, before you start. This is mainly due to the time it takes to make the necessary checks and complete the relevant training.

Is there a deadline to sign up?

You can choose to volunteer for the NHS at any time, but this campaign is being supported during December and will close at the start of January.

If now isn’t a good time for you to volunteer, you can get in touch with your local hospital or other NHS organisation at a later date. 

You can also look at volunteering opportunities at do-it.org.

What if I’m not able to go online?

Due to the volume of pledges that Helpforce is expecting to process, it is encouraging everyone to make contact through the online form.

If you are having problems with that, perhaps you can seek assistance from a friend or relative?

Who do I contact if I have questions?

Please go to the Frequently Asked Questions web page (hospitalhelpforce.com/faqs). The ‘speech bubble’ icon will take you to one of Helpforce’s ambassadors who will be happy to help.

Can I give anything other than time?

You can donate to Helpforce — the charity will use all the money raised to help support hospitals in the creation of new volunteering roles, and bring more volunteers to their wards.

There are two ways you can donate: via the donate button at hospitalhelpforce.com, or by sending a cheque. 

Please make it payable to Helpforce Community Trust, and post it to: Helpforce S90, South Wing, Somerset House, The Strand, London WC2R 1LA.


The Daily Mail launched a major campaign at the end of November to recruit thousands of NHS volunteers.

We asked our readers to find time to help patients and take pressure off frontline staff.

Vital hospital roles include mentoring patients, providing friendship and even being a blood courier.

The recruitment drive – the biggest in Britain since the 2012 Olympics and backed by health unions – is a partnership between the Mail and the charity Helpforce.

The Daily Mail is asking readers to find time to help patients and take pressure off staff

Vital hospital roles include mentoring patients, providing friendship and even being a blood courier 

Those who sign up for the Christmas appeal will be asked to pledge as little as a day a month, or three hours a week, for a minimum of six months.

An estimated 78,000 volunteers already contribute to the NHS, yet the growing complexities of delivering health and social care for an ageing population mean the need for help is greater than ever.

Hospital consultations have doubled in a decade – from 11million in 2008/9 to more than 20million last year.

And last week a report identified a sharp rise in emergency admissions, while there are more than 100,000 staff vacancies in the service.

This puts frontline staff under immense pressure, creating the need for volunteers to step in with practical support and a helping hand.

Prospective volunteers can register their interest by filling out a simple form online. They will be matched with an NHS trust, with placements running from the spring, depending on availability and subject to the necessary checks.

Volunteer roles could include befriending patients, collecting prescriptions and even running singing groups. Others may use their own experiences of cancer or mental health to comfort others.

Surplus volunteers could be referred to charities such as Marie Curie and the British Red Cross.



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