Community support for the NHS

Local communities are going the extra mile to support NHS staff who are working flat out to deal with the outbreak of coronavirus. Trusts report examples of:

    • supermarkets offering dedicated shopping times for health and care workers only
    • local businesses donating food and items for care bundles for teams
    • Lidl delivering flowers to local hospitals
    • hotels, private schools and universities offering free accommodation to NHS staff whose households are following self-isolation guidelines
    • congestion charge in London suspended from 23 March for key workers
      • West London NHS Trust contacted restaurant chains who they thought might have excess stock on the ground and arranged for the delivery and collection of donated goods - they have since had very generous donations from Pret A Manger, Leon, Eight Food and Bella Italia - and where they have been unable to take goods, they have redirected the collections to other NHS trusts e.g. Brighton and Sussex University Hospital NHS Trust
      • West Midlands Network are providing free shuttle services from park and ride sites across the region to support hospital staff getting to and from work
      • Minicabit has partnered with The Fishmongers Charitable Trust to enable the public to donate towards free minicab rides for NHS staff. Registered NHS staff members can receive promotional codes to book taxis for free. Codes are available on a first come, first served basis and are issued against the available funds donated.
      • Helpforce Assist is a new service to provide urgent help to NHS trusts in the form of voluntary offers of people and resources from businesses. It already includes offers for staff such as hire cars, wellbeing support, hotels, and food. Helpforce provide support in logging and prioritising requests, coordinating and validating business offers of help, and matching requests with the most suitable offers.
      • NHS workers in London have been offered free use of electric bikes to travel to work. The HSJ reports that the specialist electric bike retailer Fully Charged has made more than 20 eBikes available free of charge for NHS staff who sign up to the scheme.
      • NHS England and NHS Improvement are now collating offers to NHS workers across supermarkets, food outlets, transport and other miscellaneous items. The NHS staff offers page includes details of how to access these discounts and will be updated regularly.
      • Publishing group Hachette UK are offering NHS staff a selection of free e-books to download until the end of May.
      • Manchester City Football Club will continue to make their Etihad Campus facilities available to NHS staff after the Premier League restarts. The club has so far opened up rest, relaxation and exercising facilities to over 26,000 NHS staff since the pandemic began, and has been running a COVID-19 testing centre on their estate.
      • Not-for-profit organisation Help NHS Heroes have been working with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to set up a food box programme for 12,000 staff. The organisation have also started delivering care packages to patients and have launched staff food shops across three sites. Help NHS Heroes is staffed by unpaid volunteers from the local community and other organisations.


NHS volunteer responders


The NHS has issued a call for volunteers to help vulnerable people stay safe and well at home. Members of the public can sign up quickly and easily at to become NHS volunteer responders, and can be called on to do simple but vital tasks such as:

  • delivering medicines from pharmacies 
  • driving patients to appointments
  • bringing them home from hospital
  • or making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home. 


The scheme is already helping thousands of people every day and hundreds of thousands of volunteers are available to help. Health and social care professionals, including GPs, pharmacists, midwives and social prescribing link workers can make referrals. Some voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations that work with people who are clinically high risk or vulnerable may also now make referrals. You can make referrals through the NHS Volunteer Responders referrers’ portal or by calling 0808 196 3382.

The scheme is now open for self-referrals for people who have been advised to shield and those most at risk who are isolating at home from coronavirus. These people can ask volunteers for short-term help by calling 0808 196 3646 between 8am and 8pm. Please pass this number on to patients who could benefit from this support. You can also print this poster to display locally.

You can find more information about the programme on their website. You can also find additional communications information for referrers here, including suggested social media content.

NHS volunteer responders is not intended to replace local groups helping their vulnerable neighbours but is an additional service provided by the NHS.


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