MORE than half a million tasks have been completed nationally by the NHS army of volunteers recruited to help local communities during the coronavirus pandemic, including people in Herefordshire.

The scheme has been made available to councils, charities and other organisations, as well as NHS staff, allowing people across the community to get support.

Set up by the NHS and Royal Voluntary Service using the GoodSAM App, the scheme was designed to protect vulnerable people and the NHS during the coronavirus crisis and the NHS said it has provided a vital safety net to individuals who need support since it launched three months ago.

New data from the ONS this week shows the scale of vulnerable people receiving support from friends or relatives during the pandemic, with almost half of adults saying they had helped someone outside their household during lockdown – a substantial increase compared to the year before.

For those who have not had this care available, the volunteer responder scheme has been available to help people who needed it using geo-location to quickly pinpoint the nearest volunteer, the majority of tasks are matched and delivered within 24 hours.

Nearly 600,000 volunteers were recruited to the scheme following the call for help and 360,000 of these people have put themselves 'on duty' since downloading the app and signing up.

NHS Volunteer Responders have enabled people to stay safe, get the essential food and medicines they need and have provided a listening ear to those isolating alone through thousands of friendly 'check-in and chat' phone calls.

They have also supported people to get to and from important hospital appointments when they wouldn't otherwise have been able to do so.

As the country moves to the next phase of its response to the virus, support remains open for local communities and NHS staff.

Bill Montague, aged 72, from Herefordshire has benefited greatly from the kind acts of NHS Responders as he is a heart transplant recipient who also has diabetes and a rare strain of Tuberculosis (TB).

He was sent a letter advising him to shield. He lives next door to his eldest daughter, Di, and her family in rural Herefordshire. She supports Mr Montague at home, so is shielding too in order to be able to care for him.

"I'm very lucky to live rurally and with my family close by to support, but my daughter is shielding too in order to help care for me so she can't go out to collect my medicine.

"We weren't sure if we should ask for help but I'm so glad we did; within a couple of hours of our call, a volunteer arrived on his motorbike with my medicine. It's not always easy to ask for help, but anyone who needs some assistance should make that call."