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A helping hand for the NHS

In March 2020, millions took to the streets to clap for carers in a moving demonstration of national appreciation for the NHS.

It’s the same sense of solidarity that drives the work of volunteering change agency and charity Helpforce.

Volunteers have long played a key role in supporting the NHS. Recognising the potential to go further, Helpforce has a vision of the NHS as a place where more people can play a helping role, supporting patients and freeing up time for staff to spend on clinical care.

Making an impact for the NHS

“Working alongside Helpforce since 2018, we provide a pro-bono advisory service for its mission - to accelerate the growth and impact of volunteering in the NHS,” said Deloitte’s UK head of healthcare Sara Siegel.

Working with NHS trusts, it co-develops new volunteering roles that are proven to make a difference to clinicians and patients, helping the trusts to understand the value volunteers can offer.

Recognising the potential for Helpforce to play a transformative role, we pooled our skills and expertise in an ongoing collaboration that was recognised at the 2020 Management Consulting Awards, winning the Social Value category.

“Working together over a prolonged period enables us to make a much bigger impact for the NHS, patients and clinicians than either organisation could make alone,” continued Sara.


Building strong foundations

“Deloitte has appointed a series of teams to work with us for many months at a time,” said Paddy Hanrahan, Helpforce Director of Strategy & Innovation.

“This gives its people time to understand our work, and the support needed to deliver key projects.”

Taken together, the projects have enabled Helpforce to expand its influence and reach and keep developing new and more effective volunteer interventions, including work to:

  • co-design new ways in which volunteers can offer help and evaluate them through a series of pilots in hospital across England
  • secure £900k of Big Lottery funding - based on our gap analysis of volunteering across the UK and how it could contribute, Helpforce secured funding to expand across Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
  • develop a framework for evaluating the impact of volunteers, enabling hospitals to make the case for funding to secure volunteer programmes
  • create an evidence-base for volunteering interventions in primary care. 


Making a difference to clinicians and patients

Working in partnership with NHS Trusts, we’ve designed and tested new volunteering roles that, by making a measurable contribution to clinicians and patients, are central to Helpforce’s growth.

For example, using our expertise in clinical and operational NHS roles, we mapped patient journeys to identify ‘pinch points’ and ways that volunteers could help relieve them.

The result was a range of new tried and tested volunteer roles, such as ‘Bleep Responder’ volunteers, deployed in new hospital settings.


‘Bleep Responder’ volunteers

The ‘Bleep Responder’ volunteers pilot, initially based at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, tested how much time could be saved by having a pool of volunteers on standby to help with tasks that would usually be carried out by clinical staff.

To avoid unnecessary delays to patient discharges, dedicated volunteers used bleepers so they could be contacted by staff from across the hospital to collect their prescriptions.

When multiplied, small time savings were shown to make a big difference. A monthly average of 476 prescription-delivery trips were calculated to free up 51 hours of staff time per month.

The approach has now been rolled out full time in West Suffolk and Chelsea & Westminster NHS Foundations hospital trusts.

This practical work began by supporting Helpforce to expand the number of NHS hospital trusts it operated pilots in from five to 17.

Building on this approach, we have continued to support Helpforce’s work to develop even more impactful interventions through its ‘Volunteer Innovators Programme’.

Through this programme twelve NHS hospitals have developed volunteer interventions identified as those which could make the greatest impact on patients, staff, and services.

We continue to work with Helpforce to refine and test these ideas so they can be scaled up and adopted within other NHS settings.

The evaluation framework we developed has provided the basis for measurement across the programme that is so vital to quantifying its value.

An NHS commitment

Since we began working with Helpforce, the charity has transformed – expanding beyond England, across the UK, and further raising its profile to be recognised in the NHS long-term plan, which sets out the future direction for the NHS.

NHS England has committed at £2.3 million of funding to scale Helpforce’s successful volunteering programmes across the country – part of its commitment to double the number of volunteers in the NHS over the next three years.

The value Deloitte has delivered to Helpforce in our aim to transform volunteer services to benefit NHS staff, patients and volunteers is unparalleled.


Deloitte has been by our side from the beginning supporting us to build the foundations for volunteering best practice.

Tom Hughes-Hallett, Helpforce Founder and Chair.

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