Blog 22 February 2024 By Jade Herriott, Operations Manager at DofE

How to: volunteer in an NHS hospital

Two young DofE volunteers in NHS hospital wearing red tshirts

Did you know that you can do your Volunteering section in an NHS hospital? Operations Manager Jade Herriott opens the doors to find out more.

Young people choosing to volunteer at their local NHS hospital will be helping people, getting valuable insight into future careers and supporting the future of the NHS. There are lots of ways you can volunteer for an NHS trust. From directing people to the right department to playing a board game with someone who is lonely, there are many options for you to choose from, like:

  • Helping patients at mealtime and offering refreshments
  • Distributing books, magazines and papers among patients
  • Organising and taking part in arts and crafts activities with patients
  • Befriending and providing companionship to patients

By volunteering in an NHS hospital you will be gaining valuable skills for work and life, by supporting people in the local community and gaining experience of a hospital setting. For anyone considering a medical-related career, practical work experience of any kind in an associated field is invaluable.

The DofE now has five NHS trust-based Approved Activity Providers who are looking for volunteers. If you don’t live near one of these trusts they can volunteer for another hospital. Just make sure that the activity fits the requirements of the Volunteering section before you start your volunteering. It’s important to note that some hospitals have age restrictions on the age of volunteers, so please contact your local hospital for more information.

You can also check our Opportunity Finder to look for other volunteering AAPs that have opportunities within healthcare settings.

“Feeling really useful”

Olivia, DofE participant, volunteered at King’s College Hospital from November 2017 to January 2019, she spent three hours each Saturday morning reading and chatting to patients, bringing them newspapers and books, running errands, making them cups of tea and helping to serve their meals: “It’s so nice to spend a few hours each week helping other people and not thinking about yourself. Patients have said that our conversations have made a real difference to their hospital experience – that will always stay with me. You get to meet so many interesting people, with so many life experiences, who may be completely different to you and have so many amazing stories to tell. Being able to improve someone’s day, even just by making a cup of tea for them or having a normal conversation, is so rewarding.”

“For anyone considering volunteering I would definitely recommend it. As a teenager, it’s really easy to feel like you’re not particularly useful when you’re doing work experience or something similar. When volunteering at the hospital you feel like part of the team and you can see the real difference you are making to people. I’ve found it’s a good taste of adult life and now there’s the added bonus of being able to use the hours towards my DofE programme.”

Amy, DofE participant, said: “I am now aware of the challenge the NHS faces, so when I am waiting too long for medical attention I understand why. This has also fuelled me to pursue a career in the healthcare sector.”

Emeline, DofE participant, said: “I see the smile I bring to patients whenever I spend time with them, and that is why I volunteer. It is about changing someone’s day.”

Chris Neal, Volunteering Manager at Imperial Charity, said: Our volunteers make a huge difference to our hospitals and we work hard to make sure their time with us is safe, rewarding and accessible.”

Find local NHS volunteering opportunities

Opportunity Finder

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