Volunteers are probably worth millions to the NHS, according to a new pilot study from Volunteering England.
The study assesses the impact of volunteering with NHS trusts, focusing on five across the country. Some trusts estimated that the economic value of volunteering averaged around £700,000 a year in hospital trusts, £500,000 a year in mental health trusts and £250,000 a year for primary care trusts.
Care Services Minister, Ivan Lewis said: “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.”
The study revealed that volunteers could overcome social isolation by volunteering and that a community’s understanding of mental health issues can also be improved through volunteers.
Volunteers’ motivations for volunteering ranged from ‘giving something back’ to achieving better employment prospects and wanting to give structure to a retired lifestyle.
Trusts involved in the study derived huge benefit from their volunteering programmes, although volunteering in the trusts was unevenly distributed and managed. Trusts also need to take into account the opinions of paid staff.