Contracts for charities to support accident and emergency departments during periods of winter pressure have been announced today.
The Cabinet Office is providing £1.2m in grant funding from to Age UK, Red Cross and the Royal Voluntary Service who will mobilise volunteers in the 29 most under-pressure accident and emergency departments for 12 weeks from today.
This announcement follows recommendations from a taskforce chaired by Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations. This took place last month when a group of 15 health and social care charities met to come up with a plan for the sector to provide more support to overrun NHS accident and emergency departments.
On the announcement, Bubb said: “Too many beds in A&E are filled by people who aren’t ill, and who need social care not medical attention.
“Charities already help with this and I’m pleased to have agreed this action plan for them to support 29 hospitals under pressure. Patients will benefit from the unique charity offer: a mix of paid professional charity staff and trained volunteers helping improve outcomes in alliance with clinical professionals.
"Over the next 12 weeks we’ll get hard evidence to show how charities can support the NHS for the long term. We’ll use the evidence to make sure charities become a long-term part of NHS plans.”
The scheme will see 700 volunteers assist 10,000 patients through three types of intervention. Volunteers will work at home, where they will support older people and prevent unnecessary admissions to hospital. They will also work in casualty, where they will support medical teams to secure early discharge of patients who do not need admission on medical grounds, but are prevented from returning home for social care reasons. And they will help on wards to secure early discharge of patients who do not need a bed for medical reasons.
Health Minister Lord Howe said: “The NHS has worked with expert charities including Age UK, British Red Cross and the Royal Voluntary Service for decades to make sure patients get specialist extra support when they most need it.
“Around 700 volunteers will help mostly older patients once they leave hospital as part of this £1.2m project, which is on top of the record £700m that the government has provided for 700 more doctors, 4500 more nurses and 5000 more beds.“
David McCullough, chief executive of the Royal Voluntary Service, said: “Royal Voluntary Service volunteers have been supporting the NHS since it was founded in 1948 and we are pleased this additional funding will enable us to work alongside clinical teams in the most under pressure NHS Trusts to improve the wellbeing of older people.
“With an ageing population putting mounting pressure on hospitals and local authorities, we believe this is where the voluntary sector can prove invaluable.”