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GPs make 13% of referrals to NHS Covid-19 volunteer service

GPs are making one in seven of all referrals to the NHS’s volunteer service for helping vulnerable patients during the Covid-19 pandemic, as self-referrals have increased in recent weeks.

Earlier this month GPs represented the ‘greatest source’ of referrals to the service, according to NHS England.

But the majority of tasks carried out by the NHS Volunteer Responders programme are now requested by individuals themsleves, who represent 24% of all referrals.

Meanwhile, GPs are the next most common source of referrals – representing 13% of them.

Just under 13% of requests come from local authorities, while around 7% are from community pharmacies and 6% from social prescribers or link workers.

According to the Royal Voluntary Service, which operates the scheme, primary care overall – rather than an individual type of referrer – is requesting 25% of all tasks.

This is a shift from earlier this month, when Dr Neil Churchill, director of experience, participation and equalities at NHS England, said practices were the greatest source of referrals onto the programme.

Speaking in a webinar on 14 May, he said: ‘General practices are still the greatest source of referrals into the NHS Volunteer Responders programme.

‘We have introduced self-referral so as a general practice you don’t now need to make the referral yourself. You can give people the telephone number for them to call and they can refer themselves in.’

Last month, the recruitment of 750,000 volunteers to the service far exceeded the Government’s target of 250,000. 

The scheme, which is a partnership between the NHS, Royal Voluntary Service and GoodSAM, was established to provide support for communities during the pandemic.

Those enrolled help to distribute food, medicines and essential deliveries, or provide support over the phone, to allow the clinically extremely vulnerable to shield.

However, concerns have previously been raised that many of those who had expressed an interest in participating had not been given any tasks.