Supporting overburdened clinical teams is essential. We’re supplying a volunteer workforce to help, writes Dr Charles Armitage

The coronavirus pandemic has placed an unprecedented level of strain on clinicians and healthcare teams caring for our most vulnerable.

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These teams were already suffering from a deepening staffing crisis – and the outbreak will only amplify the difficulties faced, with more patients and service-users in need of care, and a higher chance of staff gaps due to sickness leave.

To ease the pressure, the NHS and social care services will need to find additional resources rapidly – which is how my team at Florence came to the decision to deploy the National Care Force.

Set up in response to the growing crisis, the National Care Force is a free platform that connects volunteers with healthcare teams in need of help.

Team leads can sign up their organisation in 10 minutes and, after a validation check lasting no longer than 48 hours, use the platform to find volunteer help for a variety of clinical and non-clinical roles. Using volunteers frees up permanent staff to do their jobs, as volunteer assistance is provided to the frontline as well as behind the scenes.

Volunteers can be tasked with a wide variety of jobs, depending on the needs of the NHS team or care organisation asking. Office admin support, driving patients to medical appointments, fetching shopping and essentials, on-site childcare for staff or cooking and service roles are a few examples of the volunteer work organisations can ask for. Clinical rota gaps can also be placed on the platform, for volunteers with medical training.

Organisations who have joined can view the National Care Force’s volunteer database and post opportunities to selected contacts, who can be filtered by a number of factors including clinical experience, proximity, presence of DBS certificate and access to a vehicle.

Volunteers will submit to an ID check by facial biometric verification tool Onfido, and bring an ID and DBS certificate to roles (if DBS is required) as proof of identity and background check.

The National Care Force is a not-for-profit with charitable status pending, run by the Florence team alongside our daily work (we’re a staffing platform, created to ease the crisis of vacancies in healthcare) with the help of other tech partners and donors. With 20,000 volunteers and 2,000 care organisations joining since launch in mid-March, the objective now is to see those volunteers making a difference to the frontline.

In this time of need, we look for innovative ways forward. The National Care Force has been set up to share the power of people within our communities, and our hope is to provide healthcare teams with an untapped new workforce to fight this crisis.

For more information, and to sign up your organisation for free, click here.