Last reviewed 15 April 2020

GPs have been told they can now refer vulnerable patients to the NHS volunteer scheme so that they can get support with tasks such as collecting medicines, driving patients to appointments or bringing them home from hospital during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Priority will be given to patients identified as most at risk from COVID-19, asked to self-isolate at home for an extended period, and to those who health practitioners and local authorities consider to be vulnerable.

The volunteer initiative is delivered by NHS England and NHS Improvement in partnership with Royal Voluntary Service and enabled by the GoodSam Responders app.

Over 750,000 volunteers responded to the NHS call for assistance to carry out simple tasks for people without compromising government advice on self-isolation and social distancing.

GPs should make referrals using the NHS Volunteer Responders Referrers’ Portal, where details of the patient can be entered, together with the type of support needed and the frequency.

Other health and care professionals who can also refer comprise social prescribing link workers, practice nurses concerned about an at risk or vulnerable individual they have advised to self-isolate, hospital discharge teams, community pharmacists, NHS 111 and ambulance trusts, community health trusts that need volunteer support for patients leaving hospital, and local authorities.

Volunteers will receive "role specific training". Four types of volunteers are provided and consist of community response volunteers for shopping, medication or other essential supplies; patient transport volunteers for patients medically fit for discharge, to transport and ensure they are settled safely back at home; NHS transport volunteers for equipment, supplies and/or medication between NHS services and sites; and check in and chat volunteers providing short-term telephone support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness as a consequence of self-isolation.

The referrer will be sent a confirmation email. Referrals then go to a matching process, with volunteers on duty able to accept requests. Healthcare professionals are able to track the provision of support via the portal and can remove an individual who no longer needs assistance.

The NHS Volunteer Responders Referrers’ Portal referral form is available at: https://www.goodsamapp.org/NHSreferral

Alternatively, a referral can be made by calling: 0808 196 3382.