A ‘PHENOMENAL’ 750,000 people have signed up to join the volunteer NHS army — three times the initial target.
Less than a week after the appeal for helpers to tackle the coronavirus crisis was announced, recruitment has now been paused.
This is to allow applications to be processed and to get the scheme up and running.
‘We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the response,’ said Catherine Johnstone, chief executive of the Royal Voluntary Service, who added it was the biggest call-out for volunteers in England since World War II.
‘As history shows, it is often in times of crisis that we pull together and become our best selves.
‘Due to the enormous volume of applications, we have now paused recruitment and ask anyone who is still interested in volunteering to wait a few weeks for the application process to reopen.
‘This will enable our team to focus on getting the first tranche of volunteers checked and out into the community.
‘We fully expect that more volunteers will be required and we will be issuing an update on areas of the country and roles that we still need to fill as soon as we can.’
Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: ‘I want to thank each and every one of the 750,000 people who have committed their precious time to help some of the most vulnerable people stay home and save lives.
‘We will now concentrate on getting this incredible volunteer army up and running, with every volunteer matched to local tasks.’
Those signing up will be helping to deliver shopping and medication to those in need, transport patients and NHS equipment, or check in and chat on the phone with individuals at risk of loneliness as a result of self-isolation.
The government launched the appeal on Tuesday for 250,000 people to help vulnerable people who are self-isolating for 12 weeks. Just two days later, it was announced that 560,000 people had signed up and the target was increased to 750,000.