Volunteering in NHSScotland

Volunteering today

There are a vast range of volunteer roles across each of the NHS bodies.  Many of these are centred around patient interaction, e.g. chatting to patients on wards, offering social interaction and engagement.  Volunteer drivers help to transport visiting relatives or support patients to access support groups and in the community volunteers help with leading ‘healthy walks’ and offering peer support to new mothers who are breastfeeding.  These are just some of the types of roles currently available.

If you are interested in volunteering in health and social care there is more information on the Link opens in a new windowNHS Inform website.

A brief history

Volunteers have been engaged in the roles in health for many years, in some cases pre-dating the NHS.

Formal development of volunteering in NHSScotland can be traced back to 1970 and the recognition of “voluntary services” in hospitals in Link opens in a new windowScottish Hospital Memorandum 1970(15).

With support and direction from the Scottish Office, Scottish Executive and more recently the Scottish Government volunteer engagement has developed into the programmes we have today.

The Scottish Government's 2008 Link opens in a new windowRefreshed Strategy for Volunteering in NHS Scotland, set out to refresh the way volunteering is perceived in the NHS. NHS boards undertook a series of developmental activities in partnership with Volunteer Development Scotland, including training of 187 staff from across the country.

At the end of the 3-year programme, the Scottish Health Council conducted a review of the Refreshed Strategy for Volunteering in the NHS in ScotlandPDF document in order to ascertain what progress had been made. This review identified that:

  • awareness of volunteering had been raised, primarily through the Investing in Volunteers award
  • the acceptance of volunteering had increased in some areas
  • the number and diversity of volunteers had increased, as had the number of volunteer roles, and
  • volunteers were making a greater contribution to health service delivery.

The Review recommended that further resourcing should be made available in order to ensure volunteering is embedded throughout the NHS in Scotland.

Current programme

The Volunteering in NHSScotland Programme has been hosted by the Scottish Health Council since October 2011.

A letter outlining the Programme was issued to NHS Boards in December 2011PDF document, followed by an update in August 2012PDF document.

In April 2014PDF document the Programme was extended for a further year to March 2015 and included an evaluation of the Programme.  After a further one-year extension, the Scottish Government and Scottish Health Council agreed that the Volunteering in NHSScotland Programme will now form part of the core work of the organisation.  This took effect from 1 April 2016.

Strategic Leads for Volunteering

Each NHS Board has been asked to nominate a strategic lead for volunteering. The current list of nominated leads is available herePDF document.