Volunteering in the NHS is always likely to be a difficult debate. Not that long ago the new head of NHS England in his inaugural speech described volunteers as an essential source of ‘renewable energy’ for the health service. This example in Cambridge seems to be one of the first indications of what that might mean in practice. Here there are apparently already 700 registered volunteers but the trust’s head of volunteer services is reported on this Cambridge Network News site saying “we can swell the volunteer numbers and transform the way they work, to provide much more effective support to clinical staff … We want to create a situation where volunteers are partners and actively engage them in designing services and delivering patient experience.”
The range of volunteering activities currently covers the long established ‘traditional’ areas associated with visiting patients, library services and hospital guides with many volunteers helping out for a few hours a week. What will be interesting is whether the range of activities extends (not that long ago in different hospital trust my mum was ‘registered’ for an MRI scan by a volunteer who took her details and issued her with a medical allergy wristband!). Given the already multidisciplinary nature of healthcare, the way in which volunteers fit within the complex work environment will also be one we will be watching with interest.