First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has revealed that a national coordination effort for volunteers to help the NHS is underway.
The campaign, Scotland Cares, will allow people to sign up to become a “community reserve volunteer” under the auspices of the Red Cross, while others can choose to join existing voluntary efforts of local organisations through Volunteer Scotland.
The move comes a week after the UK Government asked for volunteers in England and Wales, and after growing demands in Scotland for a similar national coordinated effort.
Announcing the campaign, which will launch on TV and radio, the First Minister said the best way to support the NHS was still “for all of us to follow the rules and stay at home as much as possible”.
Ms Sturgeon said the government knew that many fit and healthy people were looking to help during the crisis.
“Over the past week the Scottish Government has been working with a number of partners to tap into and utilise that desire to help,” she said.
“We wanted to take a bit of time to get this right so when people are signing up to be volunteers we know that that offer can be acted upon as quickly as possible.
“Scotland Cares will encourage people to volunteer if they’re in a position to do so and make it easier for them to register their interest.”
She said people should go to the readyscotland.org website, where they would be able to choose from a number of options.
For instance, returning health service and care workers will be directed to information about arrangements already in place in NHS Scotland.
“But if you want to volunteer more generally to help the NHS or the wider response effort, the site will direct you to becoming a community reserve volunteer,” she said.
“We are grateful to the Red Cross who will be coordinating community reserve volunteers across the country. The site will also provide information about volunteering with existing organisations through Volunteer Scotland.
“This will enable people to contribute in a way that makes a real difference within their local community and help us help each other get through this together.”
The announcement was welcomed by Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs, who last week had urged the Scottish Government to introduce such a scheme.
He said: “It’s a welcome step forward. We know already across Scotland so many Scots volunteer to help in their communities but, as we see over 200,000
Scots asked to isolate long term, we need to see a far greater community effort to support them in the delivery of groceries and medication but also in the
mental health support available. We need a community capacity in place.”
He added: “I think Scotland will respond amazingly to this task – this is a national effort and I hope we will see people sign up to support everyone across
Scotland. We need people to volunteer to support the most vulnerable in what will be a really difficult time, but together we can get through this.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard also welcomed the “creation of a volunteer force” but he urged the government to offer more clarity to companies which remain open despite being non-essential.
“This is putting lives in danger and is morally reprehensible,” he said.
Scottish Greens MSP Alison Johnstone said that, in the “face of this unprecedented emergency, anything we can do to support those key workers is very welcome”.
However, both she and Mr Leonard raised concerns about PPE (personal protective equipment) for frontline staff, despite assurances from Ms Sturgeon that 34 million pieces had been delivered, and GP surgeries across Scotland would receive eight weeks’ supply of kit by Friday.
Ms Sturgeon said health boards now have a “single point of contact for managing PPE distribution” and more staff will be employed to meet the demand in the social care sector for the items.
For more information on becoming a volunteer, visit readyscotland.org