A paper written for and published by the Bevan Commission will be launched in November. Here is a summary of the findings.
Volunteers have always made a vital contribution to health and care in Wales, but the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic has made the power and potential of volunteering more visible. Pressures on our health and care system and its paid workforce demand that we look more seriously at how we can maximise the potential of all our resources, including volunteering.
UNDERSTANDING THE LANDSCAPE
Volunteers are active in communities and within health and care settings, contributing to the prevention agenda, supporting or implementing frontline care and enabling recovery in many ways. We need to understand the diverse nature of volunteering, encompassing as it does, a whole range of activity from the informal to more formally structured and specialised roles.
Whilst informal activity is characterised by its autonomy and independence from the state, formal volunteering opportunities can be co-produced, resourced and developed to address national health outcome priorities. This will be most effective in conjunction with statutory and professional activity as part of an integrated regional system.
POSITIVE IMPACTS OF VOLUNTEERING
There is a growing body of evidence to support the positive impacts of volunteering on the health and wellbeing of patients, carers and service users, on staff, on health systems and on volunteers themselves.
It can help to alleviate some of the pressing issues facing our health and care system today, through for example, the giving of time for patient focussed conversation, practical support or information, by enabling a broader reach of services closer to home and by averting demands on acute services.
HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE FRAMEWORK
A framework for volunteering in health and social care has been developed to provide a common basis for the development of volunteering at a regional level which is integrated, resourced and sustainable.
We need to develop and to share more widely what is working well to bring about a culture change within statutory and multisector bodies which will enable space for volunteering to flourish and have maximum impact. Prudent health care demands no less.