Ward Helper on COVID-19 ward

 We would like to thank the Volunteering teams at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust  for sharing with us the descriptions for this specific role. Please note:

  • This is only an example, which can be edited for your Trust’s need.
  • The role is being tested at Chelsea and Westminister and West Middlesex in one ward initially before being scaled further. The results have been very positive so far. 
  • This job role will be updated periodically as the learning grows. This version of the role is captured on 24 April 2020, one week after the trial at Chelsea and Westminister Hospital NHS Foundation Trst started, where they allowed volunteers to support on COVID-19 wards.


This role will be to provide support to patients and staff members during this time of increased pressure on NHS services due to Covid-19 (Coronavirus). As a volunteer, they will be based on one of the Trust’s adult inpatient wards. They will engage with patients as part of a large multi-disciplinary team of nurses, doctors and therapists. Although their role will not be clinical, they will have a key part to play as it provides the ward with an extra pair of hands, assisting with non-clinical tasks such as chatting to patients, distributing meals, making drinks and running errands for staff and patients.

This role will include interacting with patients who have Covid-19 and supporting Covid-19-positive wards. They will be trained to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and they will be supported to operate safely in the relevant wards. They will not be asked to volunteer in any “red zones” such as Intensive Care or Accident and Emergency.

What tasks can they do?

Hydration and refreshment:

  • Supporting patients and staff to stay hydrated during the day including filling water jugs, preparing tea, coffee and other refreshments.


  • Helping in the distribution (and clearing away) of meals to patients,
  • Sitting with patients while they are eating to support or prompt
  • Assisting patients to cut food or place it on cutlery
  • Patient feeding

Keeping patients connected:

  • Supporting patients to stay connected to families or friends through calls or video calls
Boundaries (What volunteers won't do)
  • No clinical care of patients
  • No personal care (e.g. toileting or getting patients changed)
  • No lifting of heavy equipment
Time commitment (suggestions only)

Each volunteering shift is two or three hours long (see the notes section for how the 2 or 3 hour shifts are planned). Volunteers must commit to at least one shift per week on any day of the week at one of the following times:

  • 11 am to 2 pm
  • 5 pm to 8 pm
Who are they?

COVID-19 exposure: Within this role you you will be exposed to patients diagnosed with COVID-19. You will wear appropriate PPE and be trained in how to safely put on and remove the equipment, you will be expected to follow infection control guidelines at all times.


Age: Volunteers must be 18 years or older to volunteer in this role

Accessibility: This role requires volunteers to be fit and healthy as it involves a lot of walking.
Health: Volunteers should be in a low risk health group. Vulnerable adults, those considered at an increased risk of severe illness or those caring for vulnerable adults are not suitable. (More information can be found here). COVID-19 exposure: Those who have symptoms of COVID-19, been exposed to those suffering from COVID-19 or recently returned from high risk countries (including Italy, Iran and China) are not suitable volunteers until after a 14 day isolation period.

As a volunteer they will embody the Trust’s values:

  • Putting patients first
  • Responsive to, and supportive of, patients and staff
  • Open, welcoming and honest
  • Unfailingly kind, treating everyone with respect, compassion and dignity
  • Determined to develop skills and continuously improve the quality of care

Skills and other requirements:

  • Have a good standard of oral English
  • Have excellent communications skills – talking and listening to patients and staff
  • Have an appreciation of confidentiality issues
  • Be self-motivated with an ability to think on their feet and work independently
  • Be punctual and dependable
  • Have a professional and friendly demeanour
  • Be flexible and eager to learn
  • Be resilient. Some patients might be distressed, and seeing patients with delirium or dementia can be distressing for some

This is not a job shadowing or a workplacement. Volunteers must be motivated to volunteer, rather than just shadow staff.

What training should be considered?

Volunteers can now visit the National Hub for Volunteering to access free training courses. 

Core volunteer training covered in induction may include:

  • Health and Safety
  • Infection control
  • How to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Information Governance
  • Fire Safety
  • Manual and Handling

Depending on their tasks, specialist training may include:

  • Feeding
  • Dementia care training
Frequently asked questions

Examples of FAQs that volunteers may have and suggested answers. This is for reference only, please feel free to change them where suitable. 

Are there any patients with Covid-19 on the ward?

Yes. All of the patients on the ward have Covid-19. Some are elderly and may have dementia. None of the patients are on ventilators. This is because they are either recovering and on their way to being discharged or because they are palliative.

Is this dangerous?

The health and wellbeing of our volunteers, staff and patients is of paramount importance to us. We have conducted a thorough risk assessment of this role and have also conducted a pilot project to test deployment. All volunteers will wear the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and will be trained to use it. All volunteers will also receive an induction from the ward team and, where possible, will be paired up with a more experienced volunteer “buddy” who can show you the ropes

COVID-19 Ward Helper - Information, learning, service example

Specifc COVID – 19 Role requirements/ considerations

Health & Safety:

Covid wards are to have large, clear visual reminders on the walls:

– For volunteers: there needs to be reminders on the walls showing the correct method for putting on and removing PPE equipment (this needs to comply with the Public Health England guidance and any hospital specific policies)

– For staff:  there needs to be a list of duties that can be completed by volunteers

– Board for volunteers to write their name on as they come onto shift so that the staff know who they are working with.

– The role needs to adhere to each hospitals infection control guidelines and public health guidelines.

Please note: Where the volunteers aren’t able to wear scrubs, please check the washing temperature noted for the polo-shirts or other uniform items – anything other than a 60 degree wash a solution needs to be agreed locally.

– To minimise the risk of virus spread the volunteers will be based on a Covid – 19 ward and will not move between other wards.

– Trusts may not want ward helpers to be involved in activities outside of the ward, such as running or escorting, in an attempt to minimise transmission risk

Service Design:

This role has purposefully got only a discrete amount of tasks/ activitites that the volunteer will carry out.

These are timed activities to ensure volunteers are able to provid specific assitance at key times within a ward’s daily routine

Shifts should be two hours long: Volunteer arrives on shift 30 mins before a mealtime.

Task examples:

– Wake patients, chat to patients, help patient have a drink

Help mealtime service:

– Serve meals

– Help patients reach meal/ drink

– Encourage eating

– Clear away from mealtime

Provide refreshments for ward staff

Finish shift after two hours. An additional one hour (taking it to a maximum of a three hour shift) can be delivered within a covid ward where volunteers use communications devices (such as Ipads/tablets) to help patients communicate with their family and friends.