Tweet about this on Twitter Email this to someone Share on LinkedIn


Youth volunteering in hospitals

This page is for those setting up or running youth volunteering programmes in hospitals.


You’ll find learning and resources from 32 NHS Trusts and their respective charities, who have been welcoming young volunteers since early 2018. 


We also want to collect examples of what others are doing, in particular how hospital volunteer coordinators are responding to the challenge of Covid-19, to help inform and support volunteering in NHS Trusts.



Learning so far


The following ideas are examples of how our network of 30 NHS Trusts are working with young volunteers during Covid-19. You can also find examples of role descriptions in the Covid-19 resources section below. 


Young peoples’ enthusiasm to help is striking – one Trust has 170 new volunteers, 60 of which are young people (16-25 year olds) who applied to volunteer through the Trusts’ website to help the response to Covid-19.


In person


  • Offering out roles to their more experienced volunteers. One young person has taken on the role of Senior Volunteer in a Trust, supporting new volunteers of all ages, and has been ‘outstanding’ according to this Trusts’ Volunteer Coordinator.

  • Training new cohorts of ‘Response Volunteers’. One Trust ran a training day for 19 people, 11 of which are Young Volunteers, who are now covering 75% of the available shifts at this Trust.

  • Diverting volunteers to other, local volunteering opportunities (e.g. helping neighbours with shopping or having phone calls with vulnerable members of their community).

  • Redeploying volunteers to other internal opportunities, for example: referring volunteers who drive to their estates department; distributing donations and surgical masks (with strict guidelines about distribution onto the wards); supplying food and drink for staff in isolation wards.

  • Assigning people roles on the day based on need – for example, one Trust’s volunteers are helping with a ‘rainbow trolley’ which distributes toiletries to patients around the hospital

  • Implementing fast track recruitment processes: One Trust recruited four Chaplains in a week; another Trust has created a fast track system and are managing to process volunteers as quickly as 2 to 3 weeks, including a police check.


One Trust ran a training day for 19 people, 11 of which are Young Volunteers, who are now covering 75% of the available shifts at this Trust.


Remote opportunities


Offering remote volunteering opportunities such as:

  • Pen pal volunteering – including both writing to patients and enabling the exchange of messages between patients and their families

  • Telephone befriending

  • Creating activity packs (e.g. crafts, crosswords, themed quizzes, care bundles) that can be distributed to patients

  • Making wellbeing packs for staff and patients

  • Encouraging volunteers to make things that can be distributed to patients

  • Engaging young volunteers as remote ‘technical advisors’ for patients and visitors to communicate virtually – for example, talking patients through the set-up of hospital-loaned tablets and helping patients access music.



Maintaining engagement


Some young volunteers have experience of acute healthcare, either personally or within their families. This is often a motivating factor for volunteering in healthcare settings, but places them in the vulnerable category in the current climate. Investing time and effort in ongoing communication and dialogue with young people is therefore an immediate priority. This could include asking young people what they might want to do, as well as putting volunteers into teams and informing them if there are any opportunities to volunteer on a particular day.


  • Setting up WhatsApp groups to help volunteers stay connected.

  • Re-initiating relationships with previous cohorts of young volunteers.

  • Preparing for the recruitment of young volunteers when things return to normal, especially as the return of older volunteers is likely to be much slower.


NHS England and NHS Improvement’s advice on youth volunteering is: 


Many NHS trusts across England run specific youth volunteering programmes, enabling young people to give back to their communities and increase their skills, confidence, wellbeing and career opportunities in the process. NHS Trusts are encouraged to continue with Youth Volunteering Programmes where possible and where this can be done so safely, managing any risks in line with local business continuity plans and trust policy. Trusts should consider building in additional resilience support and check-ins for any continuing hospital-based activity and should highlight sources of support young volunteers can access.


Trusts are currently managing risks in the following ways: 


  • Training – examples include 2-3 hours online training via zoom or face-to-face (with social distancing). One volunteer is supporting the pharmacy with home deliveries and had local induction training alongside the hospital’s standard volunteer training. 

  • Volunteers are always briefed at the beginning of their shift as things continue to change on a daily basis

  • Debriefing at the end of shifts for feedback and a welfare check

  • Buddying up new volunteers with someone who has done at least a few shifts, usually a senior volunteer or someone with experience

  • Keeping all roles non-patient-facing for the moment; introducing a ‘mealtime and video call’ role with volunteers after a successful trial

  • Guidance and briefing sheets ensure volunteer safety and infection prevention – including wearing masks in clinical areas. 


Pears #iwill Peers have raised four things that would support their work. Here’s what they are and how we’re responding. 



1. Guidance: Clear and unambiguous guidance on what hospitals should and shouldn’t be doing regarding their youth volunteering offer, particularly if and how they can continue to work with under 18s.


NHS England and NHS Improvement’s advice on volunteering can be viewed here. They state “We do not recommend that all volunteer services are suspended during this time but rather that the risks are effectively managed in line with NHS guidance and with your own local business continuity support and emergency response plans.”. 


You can read more about how other Trusts are managing risk above and through this example of a Volunteer Declaration form, from West Hertfordshire Hospitals. 



2. Sharing of resources and ideas. 


Please do continue to share resources and ideas that are working for you, so we can keep this page up to date. In particular, people are interested in: 


  • Ideas for how to involve under 18s

  • Ideas for how to support older, vulnerable volunteers

  • Generic volunteering role descriptions to help with fast track recruitment (see Covid-19 resources, below)

  • Remote volunteering tasks that are working well with young people (see ideas for working with young volunteers during Covid-19, above)


People have also expressed interest in a Buddying scheme between Trusts so that they can reference each other when putting forward ideas. If you are interested, please get in touch with 



3. Support for volunteer project managers: A support system (e.g. zoom calls) for volunteer project managers to connect and share concerns and ideas, and provide an opportunity to celebrate successes/things people are proud of across the network.


We are running regular zoom calls for the Pears #iwill Peers. If you would like to take part, please get in touch with 



4. Accessing funding: Both for the current cohort of young volunteers to carry on their placements, and for embedding young volunteers in future plans. 


Funders of the current work (Pears Foundation, The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) are working closely with IVAR and the 30 NHS Trusts already funded to offer flexibility and variation of funding where needed. 


We hope to create additional resources and guidance regarding the funding of NHS Volunteer Services in the coming weeks. 


Young volunteers



Many of the following resources are examples shared by partner trusts. They provide a good starting point and should be adapted to your local context. 


With thanks to the Pears #iwill network of hospital trusts, who have shared the following resources in the hope that others may find them useful – both within the network and beyond. 



It has been an incredibly moving experience to see how young people have responded, adapted and grown in this unfamiliar world we are currently in. 


Health and social care students are required to do a minimum of 100 hours in health care placements. This can provide a regular flow of applications to volunteer.

As learning partner, we’ve been working alongside the Pears #iwill network to identify and facilitate learning. Over the next year, we hope to support the 30 Trusts and their respective charities to measure the impact of youth volunteering on young people, patients and staff – within their own trusts and as a cohort. 

About the network


Since early 2018, IVAR has been learning partner for the Pears #iwill Fund, which supports the growth of inclusive, high-quality youth social action opportunities through NHS Trusts and their respective charities.


We work with Pears Foundation, the #iwill campaign, volunteer coordinators in funded NHS trusts and partners, as they introduce or expand youth volunteer programmes in hospitals. We identify and facilitate learning from the projects being piloted or developed through delivery of a peer learning programme. 


Useful links

Learn more about IVAR