'If we can't support a volunteering culture based on goodwill and altruism, then we can't support the NHS.' That was the view of Dr Michael Dixon, Chair of NHS Alliance speaking at a recent conference at The King's Fund on volunteering in health. Many delegates shared the view that the NHS would struggle to survive without harnessing the power of communities more effectively, suggesting that we won't have an NHS unless we change our relationship with it.
Volunteering was seen as a barometer for the goodwill on which the NHS depends. The King's Fund's recent report on volunteering in health and care estimated that there are around 3 million volunteers in the health and social care sector, the same number as the combined NHS and social care paid workforce. This includes people who volunteer in the NHS and those who are supported by the voluntary sector. One of the report's conclusions was that the role played by this large group of people needs to be better understood, managed and resourced.