Logo for the volunteering section featuring two hands, one being offered to the other for support

Volunteering has been a part of the NHS since it came into existence and many of the first publicly available hospitals were developed from voluntary donations.

Volunteers can provide support to a broad range of services and can compliment the department you work in and enhance the service you provide to patients and visitors.

As well as being a great experience for the volunteers, having them in your department can enable you to explore new ways of working and improve your service.

A volunteer is playing dominos with a patient in a hospital ward


Enhance your service

Volunteers can enhance or add to the service that your department provides, having volunteers supporting you can allow you to focus on your core role while they provide support to patients in other ways such as talking to them, playing games or guiding them from place to place.

New ways of working

Volunteers can enable you to explore new ways of working which might not have been possible without them around. Maybe there are services or approaches that you've always wanted to try but not had the capacity? Having a volunteer supporting this might be the perfect way to achieve this.

Supervisory Experience

Volunteers normally require an assigned supervisor in the department who they report to and take guidance from; this experience can be beneficial to this person in terms of their Continued Personal Development as they are gaining management experience.

Benefits the volunteer

Volunteers stand to gain in lots of ways from working with you; they may be looking to gain valuable insight into working in the NHS or they might be looking for a rewarding social activity. Being a part of this can also be rewarding to the staff supporting them.

What's involved

Volunteers Roles

There are a wide range of volunteering roles in the NHS with volunteers often providing support which compliments or enhances existing services. The list below could give you a few ideas but there is a lot of room for creativity when designing a volunteer role:

See a few examples from one of our partners

Not a replacement for staff

Volunteers should not be used to provide a service that replicates that of paid staff or a recently decommissioned service. Using volunteers in the same capacity as paid employees is not only an abuse of your position as an employee but also puts other staff roles at risk and isn't a safe way to operate a service.


If you are interested in hosting volunteers in your department then it's important to consider what the supervision arrangements will be for the volunteer when they are working with you. Just like other staff volunteers need someone who will brief them and provide support as well as well as monitor their activities.


Most organisations who host volunteers will provide out of pocket travel expenses. Rates and proccesses will vary, in most cases the organisation will have a central pot for volunteer expense claims but in some cases this may come from your budget.

Recruiting volunteers

Contacting your volunteering department

There is likely to be a Volunteering Policy in place at your organisation and an assigned Volunteering Lead; this will be the best person to talk to about the role you have in mind. The link below will provide you with the contact details we have for the volunteering department at your trust.

Volunteering at my trust

Role Description

It's important to have a Role Description setting out the key responsibilities volunteer in place before you can recruit a new volunteer. Your volunteering department may have an existing description for the role you are thinking of or they may send you a template to complete.

Interview & Registration

Volunteers will normally need to complete a registration process which will often involve an interview, identity check, criminal record (DBS check), training and an occupational health assessment. Your volunteering department may well be able to undertake this on your behalf.

This process can take from 1-2 months depending on a number of factors therefore you may not be able to get volunteers started straight away. In some trusts volunteers will spend time working in an introductory role such as Wayfinding before progressing to something more complex.