Thousands of volunteers have signed up to help lonely and isolated patients as the NHS re-launches its Check-in and Chat service. The new service will provide support for socially isolated patients by providing them with a listening ear and, where appropriate, help patients explore positive changes they could make to their lives by connecting with others.
GPs, pharmacists, and other healthcare workers can request Check in and Chat support for patients who are socially isolated or would benefit from a phone call and a bit of encouragement – with an option to request just a one-off call or a series of calls. The decision to bring back the service follows insight from GPs and social prescribers that many of their patients weren’t as socially connected as they had been before the pandemic.
Chief nursing officer for England, Ruth May said: “We are extremely grateful to our incredible volunteers who support the NHS and the British public, including during our greatest time of need in the pandemic.
“It is fantastic that over a thousand volunteers have now signed up again to provide these invaluable calls for patients that are vulnerable, isolated or lonely, and to help our staff in providing the best care possible.
“It is very easy for GPs, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare workers to refer patients to the Check-in and Chat service through a simple online platform – and we know what a difference a neighbourly phone call can make if you’re feeling isolated or in need of some support.”
The programme was set up at the start of the pandemic to support people who were self-isolating with simple tasks such as shopping, fetching medication and lifts to medical appointments. Now volunteers will help patients reconnect with society, become more physically active or learn new skills or volunteer, and will signpost to other services and support in the community.
Catherine Johnstone CBE, chief executive of Royal Voluntary Service who is delivering Volunteer Responders with GoodSAM on behalf of NHS England, said: “Royal Voluntary Service is proud to be working with NHS England to deliver this innovative volunteer programme. Together, we are constructing a programme that is designed to add value to the communities across England where the need is greatest.
“Thousands of incredible Volunteer Responders supported their communities through the pandemic, and now the timely relaunch of Check-in and Chat will once again provide support to those that need it most, over the challenging months ahead.”
Minister for mental health and women’s health strategy, Maria Caulfield said: “The UK is a world leader in tackling loneliness, with the world’s first government strategy and first loneliness Minister.
“Picking up the phone and chatting to a friendly voice can make the world of difference to someone experiencing loneliness, and I applaud those coming forward to volunteer their time for this important cause.”
Patients can be referred to the service by their healthcare practitioner to start receiving support from NHS Check-in and Chat volunteers.