Coronavirus – How to help safely
1. Can I help?
You can only provide support to people who are in isolation if you fulfil ALL of the conditions below:
- You are well and have no symptoms like a cough or high temperature and nobody in your household does
- You are under 70
- You are not pregnant
- You do not have any long-term health conditions that make you vulnerable to coronavirus.
2. Who can I help?
You can help households who are isolating. This could include friends and family members as well as your neighbours.
If you want to help in your local community, but don’t know how, further information can be found in the details below.
Always remember, you should only provide support in person where it is essential for the health or care of a vulnerable person.
3. How can I help safely?
The single most important action we can all take, in fighting coronavirus, is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.
When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we will reduce the spread of the infection and save lives. This remains the case when you are helping others.
You should not go inside the homes of anyone you do not live with, especially vulnerable people or people who believe they may be infected and are isolating themselves. Breaking these rules could put you at risk of infection, or risk spreading it to others.
If you are picking things up for others, try to limit the amount of time you spend outside of your home by picking up essential items for them when you do your own shopping or collect their medicines during the same trip.
You should stay 2m or six feet away from anyone you do not live with at all times. Do not share a car journey with them.
You should also regularly wash your hands with soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
If you have offered to help other people, please do not place yourself in positions where you may feel unsafe, for instance helping late at night.
You must also always adhere to our advice on how to stay safe.
If you or someone in your household has shown symptoms, or if you are more vulnerable to coronavirus yourself, then you must stay home. You still play an important role but will need to do this from home.
4. What can I do?
There are many ways you can help friends or family as well as neighbours who are in isolation.
4.1 Help with food shopping
If people staying at home because of coronavirus need basic necessities, you could do this yourself and leave the groceries on the person’s doorstep. Try to limit the amount of time you spend outside of your home by picking up essential items for others only when you do your own shopping.
Or you could help those who aren’t as familiar with online shopping by placing an order for them or by talking them through the process over the phone.
4.2 Collecting medication
You can pick up medicines on someone else’s behalf. People should only request medication that they need, in their usual quantities. Remember to keep a safe distance when leaving any items on the person’s doorstep or drop off area, and make sure that they have collected the medication before leaving.
4.3 Stay in touch over the phone or via social media
Staying at home for a long time can be a lonely experience and may impact on people’s wellbeing. Just saying hello and regularly checking in over the phone or by video-chat is important, or you could help people by recommending information from organisations like Every Mind Matters.
4.4 Encourage people to stay mentally and physically active
People who have experienced staying at home have kept themselves busy with activities such as cooking, reading, online learning or watching films. Swap suggestions about how people you are supporting can keep themselves busy. If people are well enough, encourage them to do some light exercise and keep active around the home, perhaps by using an online exercise class.
4.5 Share trusted sources of information
It’s easy to become worried by online information, some of which may be deliberately designed to mislead people. Help your community by sharing trusted information from the NHS, Public Health England or the Department of Health and Social Care.
5. What should I do if I’m worried about someone’s health?
Encourage anyone you are in touch with or supporting to use the NHS 111 online Coronavirus service. They should only call 111 if they can’t get online, their symptoms worsen or they have been instructed to. Call 999 if you believe someone’s life is at risk.
6. How to stay safe when accepting help from others
Please refer to guidance on staying at home.
If you are receiving voluntary help do not share financial details like credit/debit card numbers or personal information.
If someone you don’t know calls at your home, always ask for ID and always ensure you are comfortable sharing details like your phone number or address. Only provide information on a need to know basis and if you have seen ID. Do not feel pressured into providing information. If you have doubts about those who are approaching you, and are concerned, it is advised that you don’t engage, and report serious suspicious behaviour to the police.
Remember that genuine volunteers have been instructed not to enter your home.
Volunteering will be crucial in the response to coronavirus and people have not been stopped from doing this.
However, volunteering that requires going out of the house is now only permitted in certain circumstances. If you are well and are not at risk from coronavirus you can undertake essential activities including:
- Delivering food
- Helping people with their medical needs, such as picking up prescriptions
- Providing essential care or to help a vulnerable person or person(s), including through essential public and voluntary services, such as food banks, homeless services, and blood donation sessions
Voluntary organisations are supporting people across the UK in this time of high need, providing practical, emotional and social support.
You could approach your local volunteer centre, or find your local member of the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action.
For more information on what sort of help is most needed and how to help safely please see the guidance above.
8. Your NHS needs YOU – Join the NHS Volunteer Responders
NHS Volunteer Responders is a new group that will carry out simple, non-medical tasks to support people in England who have been asked to shield themselves from coronavirus because of underlying health conditions. They will be used by healthcare professionals to make sure people who are highly vulnerable to coronavirus (COVID-19) are able to stay safe and well at home.
8.1 Who can join and what are the tasks?
The NHS and social care urgently need people to join the NHS Volunteer Responders to do simple but vital tasks including driving people to and from hospital, and delivering food and medication. Volunteers will also support the NHS to transport equipment and supplies, and make regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home.
Please note, to comply with the UK’s current ‘Stay at Home’ rules you can only volunteer to carry out those tasks which involve leaving your home if you fulfil ALL of the conditions below:
- You are well and have no symptoms like a cough or high temperature and neither does anybody in your household
- You are under 70
- You are not pregnant
- You do not have any long-term health conditions that make you vulnerable to coronavirus
9. I need to stay at home – can I still help?
You can sign up as a telephone ‘check in and chat’ volunteer even if you are staying at home and you are in one of the groups listed above.
10. How do I join?
You will be asked to select from a list of tasks. Once your registration and checks are complete you will be sent details of how to receive tasks direct to your device. Local volunteer tasks will be pushed to your phone with an alert when you switch the app to ‘on duty’.
11. Why has NHS Volunteer Responders been set up?
It is vital that health and social care teams can easily match people who need help to self-isolate with ID-checked volunteers in a managed, England-wide system. This service aims to support people who have specific health conditions which put them at high risk from coronavirus. It will be used by doctors, nurses, social workers, care workers and others where there is no alternative local support for their patients, and will help to keep hospital beds available to those who need them most.
12. Is this different from helping out my neighbours and local charities?
NHS Volunteer Responders is not intended to replace any local provision. It will provide a service where informal support is not available or where health and social care professionals do not have a way to refer people into those systems. It is being delivered by Royal Voluntary Service one of the country’s largest and long-standing volunteering charities.
13. I am clinically trained – how can I volunteer to help the NHS?
The NHS Volunteer Responders will not undertake clinical tasks. If you are clinically trained please visit the NHS England website
Alternatively, contact your local hospital trust.