“On duty for over 370 hours, but no requests in Cheltenham yet,” volunteer Rob Freegard wrote on Thursday. “Hopefully this means not as many issues as anticipated. Currently off work, most DIY jobs done, so ready with body, mind and car to help where I can.”

Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, urged the NHS to redirect volunteers to care homes.

“There’s probably a care home in need much closer to where these volunteers live than their local hospital,” he said. “But the social care sector has been ignored – yet again. Despite all the discussion about integration, the people in the NHS only think about the NHS. There appears to have been a major miscalculation here.”

People interested in helping care homes have been urged to sign up to the National Care Force, which so far has around 20,000 volunteers.

Charles Armitage, the National Care Force CEO, said: “We have got 2,000 care homes that need help with maintenance, gardening, cooking and keeping residents company. The demand is huge. We’ve tried to engage with the Government, but so far it has been incredibly painful and slow.”

Volunteers have signed up to carry out four main tasks – delivering medicines from pharmacies, driving patients to appointments, bringing them home from hospital, making phone calls to check on people isolating at home and  transporting medical supplies and equipment for the NHS.

The scheme is being run by the Royal Voluntary Service with the support of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in conjunction with the NHS.

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