NHS Responders

Information for health and care staff and other professional referrers 

NHS Volunteer Responders are ready to provide vital support to frontline staff, NHS clinicians, social care and other professionals who wish to help those people who are vulnerable and at risk.   

Referrals should be made via the NHS Volunteer Responders Referrers’ Portal

If you would like to bulk referrer individuals into the NHS Volunteer Responders programme you can do this by completing the Bulk upload template here. You can either upload this directly to the Referrals portal, if you are an approved referrer and have access Referrers portal here. Or you can email the completed spreadsheet to nhsvrpartners@royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk. Please ensure you read the Bulk Referral guidance here.

Please ensure:

  • You can only share personal data with us if you have a lawful reason. Please therefore only share personal data with us if you are sure that you have authority to do so.
  • Please put no more in the spreadsheet than the categories listed. Do not include any additional information outside these categories.
  • The spreadsheet asks for your confirmation as to whether each individual has a cognitive impairment or other significant vulnerability. This is so that we can direct the appropriately trained level of volunteer to the individual.
  • Please ensure appropriate security measure are used when returning the completed spreadsheet to us – e.g. use of encryption.

You can find guidance on the specific criteria within the instruction document supplied on the referral form. However, discretion can be used by a Healthcare Practitioner/Local Authority if someone is deemed a vulnerable patient but does not fall into this criteria.

You can find more information about our use of your personal data in our online privacy notice, click here

Please read our frequently asked questions if you want more information about making a referral.


How will volunteers be able to help those vulnerable to COVID-19?

NHS Volunteer Responders offer simple but vital support while following guidance on helping people safely.

  • Community Response volunteer: volunteers to collect and deliver shopping, medication or other essential supplies for shielding patients.
  • Community Response Plus volunteer : volunteers to collect and deliver shopping, medication or other essential supplies for patients with cognitive impairments and or significant vulnerabilities who are shielding.
  • Patient Transport volunteer: Providing transport to patients who are medically fit to attend routine medical appointments.
  • NHS Transport volunteer: volunteers to transport equipment, supplies and/or medication between NHS services and sites. It may also involve assisting pharmacies with medication delivery. This role can also help Local Resilience Networks with transportation and delivery of items such as food parcels.
  • Check in and Chat volunteer: volunteers to provide telephone support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness.
  • Check In and Chat Plus volunteer: this is a peer-support role, provided by responders who are shielding themselves. Regular telephone support and a ‘listening ear’ is offered to clients who are also shielding or experiencing challenges as a result of COVID-19.



NHS Volunteer Responders information for health professionals

31 March 2020, Version 1

1. Context

NHS Volunteer Responders have been mobilised to help support vulnerable individuals who are self isolating. Priority will be given to those identified as most at risk from COVID-19 and asked to self-isolate at home for an extended period, and to those who health practitioners and local authorities consider to be vulnerable. The volunteer initiative is being delivered by NHS England and NHS Improvement in partnership with Royal Voluntary Service and enabled by the GoodSam Responders

Referrals for volunteer support can be made by the following health and care professionals:

  • GPs / social prescribing link workers / practice nurses concerned about an at risk or vulnerable individual they have advised to self-isolate
  • Hospital discharge teams
  • Community pharmacists
  • NHS 111 and ambulance trusts
  • Community health trusts that need volunteer support for patients leaving hospital
  • Local authorities

NHS Volunteer Responders can be asked to help individuals with tasks such as delivering medicines from pharmacies; driving patients to appointments; bringing them home from hospital; and regular phone calls to check they are ok. Volunteers will receive role specific training where required.


2. Referral process overview

You can start making referrals into the NHS Volunteer Responders referrer’s portal immediately. Alternatively, you can call 0808 196 3382 to make a referral. It is essential that you have read the instruction document embedded within the referral form, prior to making a referral.

You will be able to select the type of support needed and the frequency of that support. Once complete, the request will be submitted and the referrer will be sent an email asking to confirm the request. Once confirmed, the referral will go into a matching process and volunteers who are ‘on duty’ will be able to accept requests. You can also log into your account at any time to view or cancel your referrals.

NHS Volunteer Responders are not intended to replace local groups helping their vulnerable neighbours but is an additional service provided by the NHS where informal support is not available or easily linked to by health and social care professionals.

Below are some frequently asked questions for you to circulate to your staff.



Frequently Asked Questions (last updated 31 March 2020)


1. What support will these volunteers provide my patients with?

Initially there will be four types of support available to your patients including:

  • Community Response Volunteer: volunteers to collect and deliver shopping, medication or other essential supplies.
  • Patient Transport Volunteer: volunteers to provide transport to patients who are ready for discharge and ensure that they are settled safely back into their homes.
  • NHS Transport Volunteer: volunteers to transport equipment, supplies and/or medication between NHS services and sites. It may also involve assisting pharmacies with medication delivery.
  • Check in and Chat Volunteer: volunteers to provide telephone support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness.


2. How does NHS Volunteer Responders connect to other work to protect vulnerable people during the COVID-19 outbreak?

The Government has asked all local resilience forums to put in place arrangements to respond to requests for help from the most clinically vulnerable people. Arrangements are being put in place through these so that those who need to can access support in the form of directly delivered food parcels and other support needs. Individuals will be asked to register via the government website where they can indicate their need for support.

NHS Volunteer Responders does not replace any local voluntary sector referral mechanisms already established but aims to complement these and provide support for services that cannot access local organisations. Local authorities can also refer people needing assistance into NHS Volunteer Responders where they have wider support needs.


3. How do you make referrals? 

Referrals should be made via the NHS Volunteer Responders Referrers’ Portal — You must read the instruction document embedded in the referral form prior to submitting a referral. This is essential due to the large volumes of incorrect referrals.

  • Add the details of the patient or NHS service that requires assistance.
  • Select both the type of support needed and the frequency it is required. Once this is done, the request is sent automatically to ‘on duty’ volunteers local to the patient.
  • If the Healthcare Professional chooses to, they can track when the patient receives support via the portal.
  • If you want to remove an individual who no longer needs assistance, the practitioner can easily do so, again via the referrers’ portal.


4. What is GoodSAM?

GoodSAM stands for Good Samaritan and is a platform they have developed, which has been saving many lives for the last 5 years. It alerts those trained (from resuscitation to cardiac arrest) of nearby incidents, while the ambulance is enroute. It is because of their technology of coordinating volunteers to those in need, that the system has been adopted for the NHS Volunteer Responders Programme.


5. Should a single nominated person set up an account on behalf of each organisation?

This is open to each organisation to decide. We have left this flexible to suit different needs. Referrals can be made by any health professional listed above.


6. Will the account holder also be told if no one is available to offer support?

Yes, you can monitor this through your dashboard once you have logged in.


7. How are patients matched to volunteers? 

Once a Healthcare Professional has made a request for patient support, the request is identified as an active volunteer task to volunteers registered in the local area. The volunteers pick the job they want to do that day and close the task once complete. Volunteers show themselves as ‘available’ when their app is switched to ‘on’.


8. Will all volunteers be DBS checked?

ID checks will be carried out for all volunteers. Patient transport drivers will need an enhanced DBS check and will receive additional guidance. Volunteers will receive guidance, including social distancing rules to ensure the group being asked to shield themselves is protected.


9. What training will volunteers undergo?

All volunteers will receive a ‘Getting You Started’ pack appropriate to the roles they sign up to, so they will have specific, clear and detailed guidance which will enable them to provide support safely. Please note that our volunteers are there to provide a preventative service to isolation/shielding and not a treatment service for those with significant vulnerability/cognitive impairment.


10. Are all volunteers over 18? 

Volunteers must be over 18 years old and fit and well with no symptoms. Those in high-risk groups (including those over 70, whose who are pregnant or with underlying medical conditions) will be able to offer support via telephone.


11. Is this UK wide?

Initially this group will support patients living in England therefore we can only accept referrals within England.


12. Will patients be able to self-refer?

We are strongly encouraging Healthcare Professionals or Local Authorities to refer patients that they have concerns about directly. However, you can also pass the telephone number for the Support Team (0808 196 3382) directly to patients for them to self-refer if they are in the high-risk group and have received a letter.


13. I keep receiving phone calls directly from volunteers saying I need support, yet they should be calling the patient

This means you have placed the referral incorrectly and you have stated your phone number instead of the person requiring support. Please log in to your dashboard, cancel this referral and resubmit a new one. It is important that you cancel this request as if you have placed the referral for a frequent period (e.g. weekly), volunteers will continue to call you directly. Please ensure you have fully read the instruction document embedded within the referral form.