Critical care/End of Life volunteering


This role has been developed through the knowledge of existing tested End of Life Care roles used in multiple hospitals in the UK. It is essential that volunteering teams develop this role within the guidance and regulations e.g. PPE and infection control etc. provided within their organisations.

To support patients and staff members during this time of unprecendent pressure on NHS services due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the volunteers will provide compassionate support to critically ill and/ or dying patients on both COVID-19 wards and non COVID-19 wards. They will also act as a conduit between patients and their families/ friends. Volunteers will be part of a large multi-disciplinary team of nurses, doctors and therapists. The role will not be clinical, but will involve liaising with the clinical team where needed ,to ensure effective communication about patients’ needs. This role assumes that family and friends are not permitted into the hospital and/ or onto the wards. Where volunteers are allowed to support on a COVID-19 ward, all tasks will need to be reviewed in line with specific hospitals’ health and safety regulations.

What tasks can they do?
  • Bedside companionship e.g. assist patient as needed, pass/ hold drinks, hold hand, chat, read
  • Communicate patient’s observations/ needs to staff and family/ friends e.g. if in pain, spiritual needs
  • Bedside companionship virtual: use phones/ tablets to provide companionship to those on wards where volunteers are not able to support
  • Family/ friend liaison – provide the link between the patient and their family & friends e.g. identifying/ communicating personal items needed, taking personal items to the room and ensuring patient can access/ use
  • Virtual Communication set-up: Set-up phone calls and video connections with availbale phones/ tablets to enable patient and family/ friend direct communication.
  • Addition roles: End of Life Care Volunteering – Sitting with a patient whilst they approach the end of their life – This will require extra training
Boundaries (What volunteers won't do)
  • No clinical care of patients
  • No clinical advice
  • No disclosure of patients’ personal information to anyone except relevant staff
  • No using patients’ information for personal gains
  • No lifting of heavy equipment
Pre-placement checks
  • Volunteers must have an enhanced criminal record check (DBS) for this role. If they do not have one already then the Trust should organise for one.
  • This role requires that they have certain immunisations and they will need to complete a health declaration form.
Who are they?


Age: Volunteers must be over 16 years old

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.

Skills and other requirements: 

  • Compassionate and sensitive nature.
  • Have confidence to communicate effectively with staff, patients and their relatives/friends
  • Professionalism – sensible and appropriate manner and exercise discretion at all times.
  • Ability to use own initiative, work independently and as part of a team.
  • To be aware of their own emotions and manage them with support from hospital team.

What training should be considered?

To access training related to these roles please click here to join the National Learning Hub for Volunteers

Core volunteer training covered in induction may include:

  • Health and Safety
  • Infection control
  • Information Governance
  • Fire Safety
  • Manual and Handling
  • End of Life Care companionship training

Supervision, safeguarding and risks

Supervised by: Voluntary Services Manager / Ward Manager, depending on set up

Please note: Supervision sessions are required for the volunteers, staff to be identified to provide this within existing hospital set up

Induction by palliative care/ ICU teams

Duty of care to volunteer:

  • Clearly defined length of shift and breaks for volunteers and encourage them to take breaks.
  • Volunteers are permitted to step back from role if in distress. It is recommended that staff need to be pre-identified to support volunteers.