Executive summary

The project

In partnership with Healthcare Improvement Scotland, NHS Tayside designed and delivered an 18 week pilot of a volunteer discharge support service between October 2022 and February 2023. The service involved volunteers calling patients for up to five consecutive days following discharge. Additionally, volunteers were able to provide support to the family members/carers of the patient to ensure that they were managing well with caring for their loved one post discharge.

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Publication date: February 2023

Evaluation approach

Using its established Insight & Impact evaluation service Helpforce follows a consistent methodology to determine the impact of volunteering roles on health outcomes. Target outcomes are identified across a range of beneficiaries representing the people and organisations involved, and then the necessary data is collected to prove and evidence the outcomes.

The pilot evaluation consisted of five different collection methods: feedback surveys from patients, family members/carers, staff and volunteer surveys and an insight log capturing learning from the volunteering team through delivering the pilot.

Key findings

Emerging findings suggest that volunteer support can result in improved outcomes for patients' and family members/carers' emotional wellbeing and confidence in care.

Overall staff perceptions of patient safety and community connections after discharge appear to have improved and most individuals were satisfied with the service. However, there were some challenges in embedding the service within the hospital discharge process.

Most volunteers appear to have enjoyed their volunteering experience; however, anticipated outcomes do not appear to have been met for all.

Conclusions & recommendations

Discharge delays and demands continue to be a growing concern for the NHS. The volunteer discharge service is an excellent example of where volunteers can make a positive difference to patients and their loved ones. Indeed, the service appears well regarded by patients, with 13 of 14 individual s suggesting they would recommend it to others.

We recommend that consideration should be given to investment in resources to support further testing and refining of the model is encouraged, to generate further evidence about the potential and impact of volunteering in this area.

Last Updated: 4 December 2023