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National Volunteering Unit


Health Education England’s National Volunteering Unit exists to support the education, training and development of volunteers across the health, social care and wider voluntary sector. It is responsible for encouraging people to consider volunteering within the NHS, whether that’s people coming into the NHS to support services or NHS employees supporting local organisations. The team develops bespoke opportunities for HEE employees to volunteer within the NHS and local communities, and designs education and training materials to enable volunteers to get the most from their volunteering experience.  

Volunteering is a theme in the NHS Long Term Plan and the People Plan for the NHS. Volunteering has multiple benefits for people working in the NHS, enabling them to broaden their field of experience. Furthermore, volunteering benefits NHS organisations, whether that be their employees giving their time to speak to young people about careers in the NHS or volunteering in other parts of the organisation or the wider community to further understand the health and care system. 

ABCDE approach

The team has developed different ways to enable HEE staff to volunteer, this includes the ABCDE approach to learning and development supports HEE employees with up to five days away from their regular duties to volunteer either in another part of the NHS or in any setting which they are passionate about.

Volunteering Report 

On the 9 November 2021 NHS Health Education England, in partnership with the University of Portsmouth launched the ‘NHS Employee Volunteers: Implications for Learning, Work and Careers’ qualitative project report. The report was compiled following conversations with volunteers about their experiences of volunteering within the National Health Service and the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector.

This project was commissioned due to the opportunity to review the benefits of volunteering in relation to learning, skill gain, work and career development, and explores the experiences of employees volunteering within their own organisation and at times of crises. It explores individuals’ lived experiences of volunteering, their motivations, and the learning and impact to careers and skill development. The report highlights case illustrations and quotes from volunteers throughout to ensure the voices of volunteers are central throughout.

The report concludes that the benefits of employer supported volunteering programmes are wide-ranging to the individual, the employer and organisation the volunteer supports.

To view the report click here

NHS Ambassadors

The NHS Ambassadors programme provides opportunities for all NHS staff to volunteer to talk to young people about their roles, the breadth of opportunity available in the NHS generally and help them to understand what working in the NHS is like. Events take place during work time, further information can be found via: https://www.hee.nhs.uk/our-work/health-ambassadors

NHS Ambassadors Report

We continually strive to improve the way in which we interact with those who may wish to take up a career in health and care, and to this end we commissioned research organisation, Rocket Science, to evaluate the NHS Ambassadors scheme between August and December 2022. The evaluation sought to understand how the programme was used and understood by schools who used the services of NHS Ambassadors and the views and perspectives of NHS staff who volunteered their time to the programme. 

In putting the report together Rocket Science spoke to 30 NHS Ambassadors as well as 6 school leaders and conducted a desk review of participation data.

To view the report visit: File NHS Ambassadors Evaluation Report ACCESSIBLE[55].docx

Inspiring Governance

Inspiring Governance connects schools and colleges with volunteers who are interested in becoming a school governor or trustee. Volunteering as a governor or trustee provides opportunities to develop a range of benefits including developing professional skills and experience, building relationships and networks in your locality and supporting children and young people in your community. To find out more about becoming a governor or trustee, or for further information please visit: https://www.inspiringgovernance.org/volunteers/ 

Volunteer to Career

Since March 2022, HEE has been funding the Volunteer to Career programme for up to 28 NHS organisations, in partnership with Helpforce. This programme is designed to raise the profile of volunteering and ease volunteers into careers, helping to combat workforce shortages and local workforce recruitment needs. Through a Volunteer to Career Pathway designed by clinicians in their local Trust, volunteers have an opportunity to explore careers and develop skills and capabilities related to an NHS career role. The programme is made up of three phases: development, accessing the current support of a volunteer, training, and clinical mentoring; delivery, to provide ongoing support and measure impact; and sustainability, where systemic change happens.

Further information on Volunteer to Career can be found here

National Volunteer Certificate

The National Volunteering Certificate is a qualification that HEE has developed for volunteers to take. The National Volunteer standards were developed by a working group of Volunteer Service Managers, Volunteers and the Third Sector as a framework for induction education for volunteers. The aim is to improve consistency and standardisation in volunteer induction and enable volunteers to develop within their volunteering role. Completion of induction supports the process for ensuring that volunteers are safe in the environment in which they will be volunteering. So far, 250 accredited NVCs have been issued since October 2021.

The National Volunteering Certificate (NVC) is based on six core standards. It is obtained by volunteers completing a number of modules on the e-Learning for Healthcare platform and completing a minimum of 60 hours volunteering. On completion of both elements a certificate and pin badge are awarded by the host organisation.

Please see the short animation below:

NHS HEE National Volunteer Certificate

Further information on the NVC and the associated e-learning materials can be found via: https://www.e-lfh.org.uk/programmes/volunteer-learning/    

Clinical Pastoral Education

To create a national programme for healthcare pastoral, spiritual and religious care staff, HEE has piloted a training framework known as Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).  

CPE is a unique interfaced experience open to people of all faiths seeking professional growth and development. CPE students learn through action-reflection instructional methods and through supervised practice in real world settings to provide faith and pastoral services to persons in crisis. These people come from a diverse range of faith and belief groups and this initial phase contains experienced chaplains looking for growth and development opportunities. 

For further information, please contact the National Volunteering Unit via: volunteering@hee.nhs.uk.