Volunteers can never replace qualified staff, insists RCN

Earlier this week the Daily Mail called on its readers to help “take the pressure off frontline NHS staff” by volunteering.

James McKay
4 December 2018
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The Royal College of Nursing has clarified that “the NHS must always be careful to use volunteers appropriately”. 

The Royal College of Nursing has reinforced that volunteers can never replace qualified staff after concerns were raised over a Daily Mail initiative to encourage the public to volunteer.

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Earlier this week the Daily Mail called on its readers to“step in with practical support and a helping hand.” and help “take the pressure off frontline NHS staff” by volunteering within the NHS.

Critics of the campaign took to social media after a supporting article, written by Dame Donna Kinnair, the General Secretary of the RCN, included a highly-controversial list of suggested tasks volunteers could undertake.

Suggested activities included; “Working with heart-surgery patients in the gym”, “Taking notes during consultations”, “Booking people into outpatient clinics”, “Becoming a massage therapist for patients or relatives” and “Offering support and comfort to bereaved families”.

Rachel, a Registered Nurse from London, said; “Letting untrained members of the public provide direct clinical care to patients puts them at risk. This list not only undermines the nursing profession but also fails to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of other allied healthcare professionals.”

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Adding; “Those who offer their time are amazing but it’s important we use their time and skills appropriately.”

However, the RCN states that Dame Donna Kinnair only gave her “broad support” for the Daily Mail initiative and was not consulted on the list of suggested activities.

A spokesperson for the RCN said: “The list of suggested activities was written by Helpforce and the Mail, not the RCN.  

“Donna Kinnair gave her broad support for celebrating volunteers and welcoming more, while writing about her own experience.

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“She was clear that the NHS must always be careful to use volunteers appropriately, especially when the frontline struggles with severe staff shortages – volunteers can never replace qualified staff or carry out any aspect of their professional work. 

Adding; “The RCN’s top priority is to campaign for increased nurse staffing levels underpinned by legislation and this work will launch in 2019.”

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