Volunteering in general practice

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Approximately 1.7 million adults actively volunteer in the health and social care sectors in England, Scotland and Wales. The NHS five year forward view sets out aspirations for a new relationship with patients and communities, with volunteering as one means of realising this.

This project built on our previous work on volunteering by examining the scale, scope and value of volunteering in primary care. The final report was published on 7 February 2018.

Why we undertook this project and what we hoped to achieve

Engaging patients and communities in making an active contribution to health and care must be a core component of our future NHS. Data from the 2015 British Social Attitudes survey shows that of the respondents who said they weren’t already volunteering in health and care, almost half would consider doing so. Our own 2013 research estimated that volunteering in acute trusts can provide an 11-fold return on investment, while providers identified the positive contribution volunteers had made to improving patient experience as one of the most prominent benefits.

While many acute providers identify the involvement of volunteers as a growth area, there is little understanding of the extent to which volunteers are being deployed in other parts of the health and care sector, the roles they are playing and their value on the ground.

General practice provides the frontline interface between the NHS, social care and communities themselves. For the majority of the population it is their major contact with the system. This project examined the:

  • different ways in which volunteers are involved in general practice
  • scale and scope of volunteering in general practice
  • impact of volunteering (where this is evaluated).

The project aimed to: bring together information on volunteering in general practice across England; showcase practice on the range and diversity of volunteering; stimulate wider policy awareness and debate about the contribution of volunteering in general practice; and identify relevant policy changes where appropriate.

The project was part of The King’s Fund’s strategic programme focused on communities and population health.

Key milestones

This project started in January 2016 and we published a final report in February 2018.

Partner organisations

We worked in collaboration with Professor Jane South at Leeds Beckett University.

Main contact

For more information, please contact Helen Gilburt h.gilburt@kingsfund.org.uk.