The NHS volunteer army has only carried out 250,000 tasks, it has emerged, despite 600,000 people approved to help vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic.
NHS England and the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) revealed the number of tasks carried out to mark Volunteers’ Week as the Duchess of Cornwall paid tribute to the “unsung heroes”.
The NHS volunteer programme has been criticised, with volunteers complaining about waiting for more than 300 hours with no tasks to do.
The scheme was hugely popular when it first launched, and in less than a week 750,000 people signed up to volunteer with 600,000 of these volunteers approved to carry out tasks.
To aid people isolating during the pandemic, the volunteers have been providing grocery and prescription deliveries, lifts to medical appointments and ‘check in and chat’ calls.
The scheme is now averaging 7,000 tasks a day, according to the RVS, and 98% of requests for help are delivered within 24 hours. The NHS and the RVS are urging those who need support to get in touch. Volunteers have downloaded an app that allows them to mark themselves as available to help out.
The Duchess of Cornwall, who is President of the Royal Voluntary Service, likened the spirit of “unsung heroism” displayed by Land Girls during the Second World War with volunteers’ response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Duchess said: “Last month, I had the great pleasure of speaking to a lady on the telephone who had worked with a group of Land Girls during the Second World War. We spoke of the quiet acts of heroism – both on the frontline and at home – that brought about a great victory for us all. We now live in a very different world. Yet as we pull together to overcome Covid-19, we see the same spirit at work: unsung heroism on the frontline and at home.
“The past weeks have seen a surge in volunteering, the like of which few will be able to recall. We now have a veritable army of 18,000 RVS volunteers and a staggering 600,000 NHS Volunteer Responders. This makes me incredibly proud of our country and of our national willingness to step forward to help in these very challenging times,” she added.
Over the past few weeks The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duchess of Cambridge, The Countess of Wessex and The Duchess of Gloucester have joined the ranks of Volunteer Responders, taking part in ‘Check in and Chat’ calls with those self- isolating, vulnerable or elderly.
Catherine Johnstone, Chief Executive of Royal Voluntary Service said: “With Volunteers’ Week fast approaching we want to say a huge thank you to all the NHS Volunteer Responders ‘on call’ across the country and to our Royal Voluntary Service volunteers, many of whom have been supporting their community and the NHS for decades.
“Volunteering has never been so critical and our volunteers, complementing those from other organisations, make a huge difference and give many people a much needed safety net.
“This is a marathon not a sprint and as members of families, social groups and communities go back to work as lockdown restrictions ease, the support of our volunteers will continue to be needed.”