People who volunteer in hospitals should get up to £200 off their council tax, the chief executive of NHS England has proposed.
In a report, Simon Stevens says that plans already put forward by the Local Government Association to reward volunteers such as those who care for the elderly should be extended to NHS volunteers too. He suggests that this reward could be 10% of the volunteers' council tax bill, representing up to £200 per year.
The plan appears in a report, Five Year Forward View, published today by the NHS. In it, six national bodies warn that without drastic changes, the NHS will face a £30 billion shortfall by 2020. Even with the planned changes, it says, there will be an £8 billion shortfall, needing a 1.5% increase in funding.
Volunteers, suggests the report, could be trained in basic life support to be "community first responders" in rural areas. They could also carry out educational activities and take part in vaccination programes.
"There's a huge tapped and untapped reservoir of goodwill for the NHS across the country in communities the length and breadth of England," Stevens said. "So the thought is, how do we build on the goodwill that exists in hospital services and community services?"
The report also suggests that companies should reward staff for losing weight with shopping vouchers and prizes that would be part-funded by the NHS. "The principal point is that employers in many countries have developed voluntary schemes for their employees whereby, for example, you actually get cash back based on participation in Weight Watchers or other type schemes," Stevens explained.
There's also a call for GP practices and hospitals to work more closely together, with large practices hiring hospital doctors to provide extra services, from diagnostics to chemotherapy and hospital outpatient appointments.
"The RCGP has been sounding the alarm for some time that there is a deep-seated funding crisis in general practice – which is leading to longer waiting times to see a GP and increasing concerns that family doctors might miss something serious in a patient," says Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners.
"We strongly support the need for new models of care, particularly for GP practices to work within federations. However, models under which GPs are made employees of hospitals – and therefore can no longer independently advocate for their patients – should only be considered if there is very good evidence for doing so."
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