Coronavirus: More than 170,000 people sign up for NHS volunteer army

A call for an army of NHS volunteers to help deal with the coronavirus crisis has seen 170,000 people sign up overnight.

It follows health secretary Matt Hancock's request for 250,000 people to donate their time to help the 1.5 million people isolating for 12 weeks.

Stephen Powis, NHS England medical director, said on Wednesday: "Overnight 170,000 people have signed up – that's three a minute to help the NHS.

"It's an absolutely astonishing response.”

He told BBC Breakfast: "This is a health emergency – we can all play a role in ensuring we get on top of coronavirus and at the same time expand capacity in the NHS.”

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Powis said there had been "outbreaks of altruism and people wanting to help", adding that he was "bowled over" by medics returning to the front line and the response from people signing up to help the vulnerable.

The response to the call was huge on Twitter, with many users revealing they had signed up:

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick called NHS staff "absolute heroes ... working round the clock to support us as a country" and provided more detail on what the volunteers may be doing.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there would be a variety of jobs available, including parcel delivery and driving.

What you need to know about joining the NHS volunteer army

Who is being asked to join?

People in good health are being asked to join the national effort to ensure vulnerable people can stay safe and well at home and to support local services.

How many people are needed?

At least quarter of a million.

A matrix road sign on the A367 into Bath advises motorists to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A matrix road sign on the A367 into Bath. (PA)

What are volunteers being asked to do?

As many as 1.5 million vulnerable people across England have been instructed to "shield" themselves from society to ensure they do not get the virus. The volunteers will help ensure these people have vital supplies such as food and medicines. They may also be asked to drive people to appointments or make regular phone calls to those in isolation.

How will we know who needs help?

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

A stock photo of a self-isolation sign left outside a property, instructing where to leave deliveries, illustrating how self-isolating measures can be put in place. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday March 10, 2020. People with even minor respiratory tract infections or a fever could soon be asked to self-isolate as coronavirus continues to spread in the UK. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus Isolation. Photo credit should read: Jacob King/PA Wire
Volunteers will be able to deliver essential items to those in self-isolation. (PA/stock photo)

How can they join?

Members of the public can sign up at

What about local schemes already in place?

These people are not intended to replace local schemes already set up to help the vulnerable, but to provide additional assistance to the NHS.