Department of Health and Social Care
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Government launches volunteer strategy consultation

Government launches volunteer strategy consultation

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH News Release issued by The Government News Network on 3 June 2008

Survey shows Volunteers have improved mental and physical health

Health Secretary Alan Johnson today launched a six-month consultation to improve support for volunteers in the NHS, social care and third sector, and to encourage more volunteering opportunities.

The consultation, 'Towards a strategy to support volunteering in health and social care' will lead to a national volunteering strategy next year.

Mr Johnson launched the consultation at St Bartholomew's Hospital, in London, after spending the morning working as volunteer in the hospital shop and on the wards.

The aim of the consultation and subsequent strategy is to:

* raise the esteem and profile of volunteering;

* help improve management and support for volunteers;

* support more robust evaluation of the outcomes and benefits of volunteering; and,

* allow more coherent investment to support their involvement.

Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Health said:

"Volunteers do an amazing job, they are vital to the lifeblood of the NHS and social care services. Volunteering does not just benefit patients , research has shown that it makes the volunteers happier too. 1There is a long established tradition of volunteering across the full range of health and social care settings, indeed the NHS grew from the pre-NHS voluntary hospitals.

"I am pleased to announce the start of a consultation on volunteering. As we prepare to celebrate the NHS's 60th Anniversary, we would like to pay tribute to the volunteers who help shape the service and for us all to recognise, encourage and support volunteering. This document is built on expert insight from stakeholders across the public and third sectors and aims to articulate a clear vision of how volunteering fits into the health, well-being and social care system."

The consultation is being launched at the start of National Volunteering Week and seeks to engage organisations across the public and third sectors in health and social care to debate the potential for volunteering to contribute to improved health and well-being for patients, carers and service users through a deliberation consultation process.

1 Assessing the Impact of Volunteering at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust - Simon Teasdale, Institute for Volunteering Research May 2007

Ivan Lewis, Care Services Minister said:

"Volunteering has a huge potential role in providing more flexible, responsive and patient focused health and social care services. Volunteers play a variety of critical roles, at all levels, providing mutual benefit to staff, volunteers and service users within health and social care services. We know that their contribution is essential and can improve the lives of patients and their local communities.

"They deserve more visible recognition and support across the health and social care system, along with a clear vision and a strategy which is what this consultation will provide. It is also directly informed by Baroness Julia Neuberger's report, as the Government's Volunteering Champion, of her review of volunteering in health and social care."

Justin Davis Smith, Chief Executive of Volunteering England:

"Volunteering England is very pleased that the contribution of volunteers to the NHS and wider public sector has been recognised through the development of this national strategy. We are also delighted that the need to support volunteer managers has been acknowledged, as has the understanding that volunteering incurs real costs through admin, training and expenses.

"Volunteering England believes this new strategy will help Commissioners develop evaluation processes which measure the outcomes and impact of volunteering. This will, in turn, lead to a better understanding of the benefits of volunteering on their wider strategic objectives, such as reducing health inequalities."

The consultation closes on 30th September 2008. The final strategy and implementation plan will be published in 2009.


Notes to Editors

1. Volunteers time is donated in addition to core resources and volunteers complement rather than duplicate or replace paid staff capacity and skill

2. A survey done last year at the Chelsea and Westminster hospital showed that that volunteers felt their role had improved their physical and mental health and the vast majority of patients felt that volunteers brought a special quality to what they did (Assessing the Impact of Volunteering at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust - Simon Teasdale, Institute for Volunteering Research May 2007)

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