MORE than 400,000 have signed up to volunteer for the NHS after a clarion call for support.

Stephen Powis, NHS England medical director, spoke yesterday of “outbreaks of altruism and people wanting to help”.

He said he was bowled over by medics returning to the front line and the response from people signing up to help the vulnerable.

He told the BBC: “It’s an absolutely astonishing response.

“This is a health emergency, we can all play a role in ensuring we get on top of coronavirus and at the same time expand capacity in the NHS.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson added his praise during last night's press conference, saying the number is equivalent to the population of Coventry.

Health secretary Matt Hancock unveiled plans for a new scheme, called NHS Responders, at a press conference on Tuesday.

He said: “We are seeking a quarter of a million volunteers, people in good health, to help the NHS, for shopping, for delivery of medicines and to support those who are shielded to protect their own health.

“The NHS Responders is a new scheme set up so that people can come and help and make sure the NHS and the local services that are needed can get all the support that they can.”

Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS director of primary care, said: “Coronavirus is the biggest challenge we have ever faced, which is why we’re rallying the troops and telling the public: your NHS needs you.

“Across the country people are playing their part in the fight against the virus by staying home for the next 12 weeks, to protect themselves, others and the NHS.

“But many of those shielding will need our support to do that, and by signing up to be an NHS Volunteer Responder, people who are well can do their bit too.

“This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments where a single action from one person can be the difference between life and death for another, and simple acts of kindness are going to make all the difference in keeping some of the most vulnerable people well and out of hospital.

“NHS staff are pulling out all the stops to ensure those who need care receive it, and creating a bank of helpers that they can call upon to support their most vulnerable patients through this difficult time is going to be invaluable, so I would urge anyone who can to sign up as an NHS Volunteer Responder today.”

Those accepted onto the scheme will be asked to deliver medicines from pharmacies, drive patients to appointments and bring them home from hospital, and call those self-isolating at home to check on their condition.

The scheme is being overseen b y the Royal Voluntary Service. You can sign up on an app.

GPs, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, midwives and NHS 111 operators, as well as social care staff, will be able to request help for their at-risk patients via a dedicated call centre.

The RVS will then match people who need help with volunteers who live nearby.

Once you have registered, and checks are complete, you will be provided a log-in to the GoodSAM Responder app.

You will have to switch the app to ‘on duty’ to see local volunteer tasks to pick from nearby.

Volunteers must be 18 or over, and fit and well, with no symptoms. Those in higher-risk groups - including those over 70, those who are pregnant or with underlying medical conditions - will be able to offer support by telephone.

All volunteers will need to undertake training and background checks appropriate to the roles that they sign up for.