Volunteers play a vital role in hospitals such as by making tea rounds and fetching medications but should never be required to do the job of trained staff, according to a report.
An estimated 78,000 volunteers perform a variety of roles in NHS hospitals across England. Richard Murray, the director of policy at The Thinkttank's King, who conducted the study, said that while it was found front-staff staff appreciated volunteers, "they were not used as substitutes for paid staff."
Patients evaluate the competency, comfort and support of volunteers can bring, according to the research. One of the nearly 300 doctors, nurses and support staff interviewed has volunteered to "put human kindness to a busy place."
Three out of four staff say volunteers help them care for patients, while almost a third believe they help free up their time to focus on clinical duties.
However, the training tutor, led by the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) and the Volunteering Helpforce, found that a lack of clarity regarding the limits of volunteers could lead to tensions between staff and volunteers.
Mr. Hughes, the founder of Helpdome, said that the elderly population would likely have a higher number of volunteers in the near future, so the NHS should embrace theirs.
Anna Chadwick, the lead dementia in mid-Cheshire hospitals NHS trust, said RVs volunteers at his Leighton hospital in Crewe played a particularly valuable role. "The impact of volunteers is giving their time to offer meaningful support to people who are unveiled and often lonely and afraid is impossible," she said. "The hospital environment can be overwhelming and a friendly face and conversation can make the world of difference to a person's experience."
The long-term plan of the NHS is expected to show how volunteers can help the health service and its staff cope with the problems they do.
Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary, said volunteers have been supporting patients in the NHS since its creation in 1948. "I want volunteering to be the norm across each NHS hospital, with volunteers giving the tools they need to fit seamlessly into the Organizations they give their time to support, so that the public and the clinicians can work side by side to provide the best possible care to patients, "he said.