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Patient support: How to refer patients to the NHS Volunteer Responders service

How GPs can refer vulnerable patients to the NHS volunteer support service 

Criteria for referring patients 

As a health care practitioner or a local authority you will be able to place a referral on behalf of an isolating – vulnerable at risk – patient providing the person meets the below criteria and would benefit from one of the four volunteer roles as determined by you a health care professional or a local authority referrer.

The following criteria has been supplied in order to assist you in your decision to refer. However, discretion can be used by a health care practitioner/local authority if someone is deemed a vulnerable patient but does not fall into the below.

  • Those that have been asked to self-isolate or ‘shield’ and are part of the 1.5 million
  • People aged 70 years and older with underlying health conditions
  • Others with high-risk conditions could include:

– People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma

– People who have serious heart conditions

– People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment

– People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40)

– certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, dementia, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk

  • People who are pregnant
  • People who are newly socially vulnerable as a result of Covid 19 and would benefit from one of the 4 volunteer roles as determined by a health care professional or a local authority referrer
  • People who are registered disabled

Inappropriate referrals

Community support

When referring a patient/client for this support, you will be asked to tick whether the individual has a cognitive impairment or other significant vulnerability.

As the NHS Volunteer Responders Programme has developed we are aware that a small cohort of patients may require volunteers with a DBS check and additional guidance due to a patients cognitive impairment and/or significant vulnerability.

We are therefore in the process of creating a new role ‘Community Response Plus’ which will ensure these volunteers have a DBS check and are provided with additional guidance to support these referrals.

This role is being developed over the coming weeks, therefore we will hold your referral and submit this once our new volunteers are ready to go. Please be aware that these referrals will not be supported by a volunteer until we have recruited for the new role, we will send you an email to update you as to when this is. Therefore please ensure you have sourced other support in the intervening period.

‘Check in and chat’ support

Please be aware that the support offered by our volunteers is a preventative service for isolated/shielded individuals not a treatment service for those with high needs and/or significant cognitive impairment (low level dementia/cognitive impairment can be supported).

Our volunteers should not and cannot support these patients. If you are unsure whether a patient/client sits within this ‘significant vulnerability’ category, consider the following:

  • Was the individual able to carry out certain basic tasks prior to Covid-19 such as shopping?
  • Would the individual recognise inappropriate behaviour of a volunteer?
  • Would a volunteer be able to chat with the individual without any background in cognitive impairment?

If the answer is no to at least one of the above questions, then please do not refer them for this support.

  • Does the individual have high level of mental health support needs
  • Is the individual known and in treatment for suicidal thoughts
  • Is the individual receiving treatment for drug and alcohol abuse

If the answer is yes to at least one of the above questions, then please do not refer them for this support.

How to register and make a referral

If you have a NHS or Gov email address:

  • If you are already registered with GoodSAM website, your referral will automatically be accepted and pushed into the system
  • If you are not already registered and this is your first referral, an account will be generated for you and login credentials along with a request to confirm the referral sent to your email

If you do not have a NHS or Gov email address:

  • If this is your first referral, your account will be need to be approved after registering on the GoodSAM website – please allow up to 72 hours for this to take place. Once approved, you will receive an email confirmation with your login credentials along with a request to confirm the referral sent to your email. 

Once you have been provided with your login credentials, you can log in to your account at any time to view or cancel your referrals –

Source: Information provided by the Royal Voluntary Service [published 30 April]