The government has launched an appeal for 250,000 volunteers to support vulnerable people who are unable to leave their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to the nation last night, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock urged people to come forward to support the NHS and local services by delivering food and medicines to people who are “shielded to protect their own health”.
“NHS Volunteer Responders is a new scheme set up so that people can come and help, and to make sure that the NHS and the local services that are needed get all the support that they can,” he said.
The news follows the launch of emergency measures introduced by the government last week to help the care workforce cope with the additional pressures.
The measures in the coronavirus bill include allowing recently retired NHS staff and social workers to return to work without any impact on their pensions, along with extra employment safeguards allowing volunteers to leave their main jobs for four weeks to support the sector.
A National Care Force has also been set up to help social care providers fill staff gaps with health workers and volunteers during the coronavirus outbreak.
The free online platform, powered by health technology firm Florence, works by allowing volunteers to book shifts available across the social care sector. Shifts are posted directly by the care providers who have joined.
With up to 80% of the UK population projected to become infected in the next 12 months – according to a Public Health England briefing for NHS officials – extra users and staffing gaps caused by the illness will add even more strain to care services already stretched before the outbreak.