Background The National Health Service Long Term Plan (2019) recommends that healthcare services work in partnership with the voluntary sector, and aims to double the number of healthcare volunteers by 2035. This includes volunteering in end-of-life care, a sector with a strong commitment to personalised care in a person’s preferred place. During the COVID-19 pandemic, an appetite for healthcare volunteering was revealed.
Objective This exploratory study aimed to understand health and social care professionals’ views on volunteer involvement in rapid transfers from hospital to a preferred place for a person nearing the end-of-life, and whether professionals perceived volunteers as being able to offer meaningful support.
Methods 13 semi-structured interviews were conducted between December 2019 and February 2020 with stakeholders working in health, social care, and the voluntary sector. An inductive thematic analysis of interview data was conducted.
Results ‘Filling gaps’, ‘pastoral and practical support’, ’a point of liaison’, and ‘robust volunteer management’ were identified as themes. Participants reflected healthcare-led and risk-averse perspectives on volunteer involvement. Volunteers were perceived as being able fill gaps in service provision and to augment currently available pastoral, social and practical support. They were also seen as helpful go-betweens between patients and professionals. Participants stipulated that volunteer involvement in rapid transfers of care would require robust screening measures, boundaries, and support via a dedicated volunteer co-ordinator.
Conclusion Professionals expressed a paternalistic view of volunteer involvement, which is likely to impact the extent to which rapid transfer volunteers would be utilised, and their level of autonomy. The sustainability of volunteer involvement in this area is therefore of concern, as this approach is unlikely to benefit or value the volunteers involved. Before a recruitment drive takes place, generating greater confidence in volunteer ability and accountability via healthcare policy may be a possible solution. Further research exploring volunteer perspectives is required.
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