Coronavirus: NHS volunteer scheme attracts more than 170,000 signs-ups within hours being launched

Programme offers support to vulnerable people during outbreak

Zoe Tidman
Wednesday 25 March 2020 08:36 GMT
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Matt Hancock launches urgent appeal for 250,000 NHS volunteers

More than 170,000 people have signed up to volunteer for the NHS during the coronavirus crisis within hours of the emergency appeal’s launch.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, announced the scheme late on Tuesday afternoon.

The number of people who had offered to help topped 170,000 early on Wednesday morning, according to GoodSAM, a group coordinating the response.

NHS Volunteer Responders aims to support vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the health service as it tackles the outbreak.

Tasks include transporting healthy patients home from hospital, picking up essential supplies for those self-isolating, and giving someone a call who may be at risk of loneliness while staying at home.

Unveiling the scheme on Tuesday, the health secretary said he wanted to recruit 250,000 people.

Mr Hancock said: “We are seeking a quarter of a million volunteers, people in good health to help the NHS, for shopping, for the delivery of medicines and to support those who are shielding to protect their own health.”

More than 11,700 recently retired NHS staff have also responded to a call to come back to work for the health service during the outbreak, according to the health secretary.

Some 5,500 final-year medics and 18,700 final-year student nurses would “move to the frontline” next week, he said.

The UK went into a nationwide lockdown earlier this week as it battles the pandemic’s spread, with people ordered to stay at home unless for food, health reasons, or work (if working from home is not possible).

More than 8,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK as of Wednesday, according to official figures.

Meanwhile, the death toll stood at 422.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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