On-boarding Volunteers

The COVID-19 crisis has brought a series of new pressures onto the onboarding process of new volunteers, such as: 

  • Managing the huge volume of the responses from the public who want to support the NHS and their expectations for a timely approach
  • Being responsive to the increase in demand as more and more staff need to self isolate/ are unwell
  • The need for flexible and adaptable onboarding processes – meeting the demands of all three stakeholders: Patients, Volunteers and the Hospital.
  • Balancing the safety and reliability of volunteers whilst keeping both the volunteers and the patients protected.

Many Volunteer Service Managers have already taken steps to streamline their onboarding, including Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust.


  • You might consider reducing the number of references required to one or not requiring references at all (For example, the volunteering team at Chelsea and Westminster has taken the decision to reduce the number of references, down to one or none, which has been agreed with their HR team)
  • Volunteers can provide reference online
  • In some instances where it’s counter-productive to wait for references before volunteers can start, you might consider letting volunteers start first while waiting for the references to be submitted. At South Warwickshire NHS Trust, the Volunteer team allows volunteers to start before the references are received. The team will ensure to keep contacting the referees to encourage them to finish the process as soon as, meanwhile volunteers can start and support the departments within the Trust. 
DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service)
  • You might consider accepting recent DBS certificates that have been completed within one or three years
  • It’s worth thinking about accepting DBS checks from other organisations
  • You might want to encourage  all volunteers to register for the DBS Update Service so other organisations can also accept them based on their current DBS checks. 
  • Only seeking enhanced DBS checks for those performing unsupervised roles or those with vulnerable patients
Occupational Health

If possible, you should work with the Occupational Health (OH)  team to look into relaxing requirements for health checks. Many OH teams in some Trusts are now accepting medical self-declaration forms. 

Virtual interviews

Holding virtual (e.g. telephone or video call) interviews rather than conducting these in person with potential volunteers. For information about which video call programmes that you could use, please visit this link.

  • Revised induction processes to make them efficient and responsive e.g. digital induction via Zoom
  • Getting people to submit digital photos, uniform sizes etc. as part of their application form so it can be prepared quickly
  • Revising current training requirements to ensure they have enough to be safe and reliable e.g. Confidentiality, Information Governance, Infection Control, Health and Safety, and basic safeguarding
  • Identifying alternative training delivery means to ensure this is delivered in an effective manner such as via video calls e.g. Using the Zoom programme to provide induction training before volunteers start, or direct volunteers to Health Education England website to access  e-learning modules.