Volunteer Development Scotland

People have been giving freely of their time to support the NHS in Scotland since the service began 60 years ago. The huge number of hours willingly donated by volunteers is simply incalculable.

This partnership between volunteers and the NHS adds to the quality of care. Patients benefit from support, time and attention; staff can be freed up to make the most of their skills; and volunteers themselves benefit from the sense of purpose and improved self esteem they derive from helping others.

This is why the Scottish Government is seeking to encourage more people to volunteer in the NHS. To assist in this, Volunteer Development Scotland (VDS) has been engaged as a strategic partner in delivering a three-year action plan to recruit more volunteers and to enhance the experience of volunteering.

This work is an example of how partnerships are being forged across the NHS and the wider community to deliver benefits for patients.

It involves VDS working with:

  • NHS Boards - to develop local action plans;
  • NHS Education - to deliver training for NHS staff in working with volunteers;
  • NHS Quality Improvement Scotland - to build on existing good practice and ensure consistency across the country in how volunteering works;
  • Volunteer centres - to develop closer partnerships between NHS services and local volunteer centres; and
  • Volunteer Scotland website (www.volunteerscotland.org.uk) - to publicise volunteering opportunities that are available within the NHS.

VDS has set up a national group to guide this work and to ensure consistency of policies and planning across NHSScotland. It will involve key NHS and voluntary organisations working together to consolidate, build on and to make improvements where necessary to maximise the benefits volunteering can bring to volunteers, patients and staff. This follows from a consultation exercise undertaken to find out what is working well in NHS volunteering and where things might benefit from improvement. This exercise confirmed that volunteers are making a huge contribution to the success of the NHS in lots of different ways. It may be as a driver transporting people to a health centre or hospital, working in a hospital shop or café or as a recovered heart attack victim helping to support other people on the journey back to good health. A scheme in Stirling uses volunteer mums to provide advice to new mothers on breastfeeding. One of the new mothers said: “I always think if someone is a volunteer, you are more likely to open up to them. They know the subject so they can be just as much help as a health professional.”

Whatever the particular role a volunteer takes, he or she will be working with others to help make individuals, families and communities stronger. Volunteering has been an important part of the NHS in its first 60 years and the strong partnerships being formed today aim to ensure it remains every bit as important in the years to come.

Norrie Murray
Volunteer Development Scotland

Medical student volunteering on a ward within the Royal Hospital for Sick children. 
Credit: Volunteer Development Scotland

As part of the Refreshed Strategy for Volunteering in NHS Scotland all NHS Boards will be required to achieve Investing in Volunteers by 31 March 2011. This is the UK Quality Standard which benchmarks organisations commitment to high quality volunteer involvement.