Healthcare workers are being encouraged to request phone support for lonely, isolated or vulnerable patients via an NHS volunteer service called Check in and Chat.
Pharmacists, GPs and nurses can use the GoodSAM online platform to refer patients for a one-off friendly phone conversation or a series of calls.
The aim of Check in and Chat is for volunteers to provide a ‘listening ear’ and, where appropriate, help patients explore positive changes they could make to their lives, such as connecting with others, becoming more physically active or learning new skills. Callers will also signpost other services and support in the community.
So far, over a thousand people have signed up to provide the calls and NHS England expects ‘thousands more’ to follow in the coming weeks, with the service signalling a ‘new phase’ of the volunteer programme set up at the start of the pandemic to support people who were self-isolating.
NHS England said the decision to bring back the volunteer chat service followed feedback from GPs and social prescribers that suggested many of their patients were not as socially connected as they had been before the pandemic.
Furthermore, in a survey of clinicians and health and care professionals who used the Check in and Chat service during the pandemic, nearly four in five said they were likely to use it and nearly nine in 10 said it would meet current patient needs, according to NHS England.
Catherine Johnstone CBE, chief executive of Royal Voluntary Service which is delivering volunteer responders with GoodSAM on behalf of NHS England, commented: ‘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.’
Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, paid tribute to those volunteering for the service. ‘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,’ she said.
‘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,’ Ms May added.