Notes to editors
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The report, Volunteering in health and care: Securing a sustainable future is based on qualitative research involving focus groups with volunteers and patients, in-depth interviews with commissioners and providers of health and social care services, and a scenario analysis conducted with a workshop of invited experts. It also draws on a review of published evidence and benefited from the insights of an external advisory group.
The research was commissioned and funded by the Department of Health and conducted independently by The King’s Fund. The remit was to explore the future of volunteering in the context of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and wider system changes.
There are an estimated three million volunteers in health and social care. This is approximately the same as the paid NHS and social care force combined.
The report includes a number of recommendations.
- Service providers and commissioners should take a much more strategic approach towards volunteering, with a clear vision of how volunteers will help meet organisational objectives and benefit patients and the local community.
- The value of volunteering needs to be better measured and articulated at all levels in the system. There is a striking lack of information about the scale or impact of volunteering in health and social care. Addressing this should be a priority.
- Volunteering should be used as a means of improving quality rather than reducing short-term costs. The management of volunteering and supporting infrastructure should be adequately resourced or there is a risk it will not achieve its potential.
- There is a need for clarity regarding the boundaries between professional and volunteer roles. Sensitivities around job substitution, real or perceived, need to be handled carefully.
The King’s Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and health care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible care is available to all.