750,000 people sign up to join NHS volunteer army in less than a week

Ewan Somerville

Three quarters of a million people have signed up as volunteers to help the vulnerable get through the coronavirus crisis, in less than a week.

The Royal Voluntary Service will now pause applications to allow processing with NHS England so the “volunteer army” can get up and running.

The body said it was “absolutely overwhelmed” by the response to the biggest plea for volunteers in England since the Second World War.

The Government launched an appeal on Tuesday for 250,000 people to help vulnerable people who are self-isolating for 12 weeks.

The volunteers will help in the national battle against the disease (PA)

Just two days later, it was announced that more than double (560,000 people) had signed up and the target was increased to 750,000, which has now been smashed.

Those signing up will be helping to deliver shopping and medication to those in need, transport patients and NHS equipment, or check in and chat on the phone with individuals at risk of loneliness as a result of self-isolation

GPs, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, NHS 111 advisers and social care staff will all be able to request help for at-risk patients through a call centre run by the Royal Voluntary Service, which will match people who need help with volunteers who live near them.

Catherine Johnstone, RVS chief executive, said: “We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the response and cannot thank the public enough. As history shows, it is often in times of crisis that we pull together and become our best selves.

“Due to the enormous volume of applications, we have now paused recruitment and ask anyone who is still interested in volunteering to wait a few weeks for the application process to reopen.

“We fully expect that more volunteers will be required, and we will be issuing an update on areas of the country and roles that we still need to fill as soon as we can.”

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, added that they had been “absolutely bowled over by the staggering response”.