In March, it was announced the GoodSAM app was to be used to help recruit an army of volunteers for the NHS to help during the coronavirus pandemic. The call was met with an overwhelming response with around 750,000 people signing up.

In light of this, Mark Wilson and Ali Ghorbangholi Co-Founders of the GoodSAM app, reflect on how the technology has helped revoutionise volunteering during a crisis.

We designed the GoodSAM platform to provide emergency first aid to those in cardiac arrest, or with life threatening emergencies, about six years ago. It uses geo locating to find those in need and delivers support while an ambulance is en route. Since then it’s saved hundreds of lives and is now used across the world by over 160 organisations and has over 100,000 first aid trained users.

GoodSAM’s ability to geolocate volunteers and deploy them to those in need led the NHS, together with the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), to ask if they could use the app and platform to task volunteers in response to the Covid-19 crisis. There are 1.5 million vulnerable people in isolation and even more who fall into the highly at-risk category. We of course said yes.

Overwhelming response

Within 48 hours 750,000 people signed up to be volunteers, with 4,000 successful registrations per second at the peak. We have considerably adapted the platform for this purpose and it is now effectively the world’s largest Computer Aided Dispatch system.

With more than 600,000 volunteers on the platform, the system is bigger than Uber and Deliveroo combined in the UK.

To be able to task volunteers we need to know who needs help. This has required GPs, local authorities, pharmacists and hospital clinicians to make referrals to request help. The platform can handle as many requests as come in with more than 99.5% instantly matching to a volunteer.

Unique situation 

The coronavirus crisis is unique to anything we’ve ever supported before. For example, at the beginning it was the people with the disease who were self-isolating, then it became the people who would be vulnerable if they got the disease.

There is constant, dynamic change around who needs help and who is able to give help and so we’re always adapting. In this kind of situation, everything needs to be highly adaptable in order to provide help for the next immediate need.

GoodSAM has a history of dealing with crisis. During the hurricane in the Bahamas we helped map support for this major incident. What’s new with this COVID-19 project, is the scale and how we’re delivering these technical possibilities to the third sector. Bringing modern world geo location apps used in other services to the voluntary sector is a huge step change and opens up the potential for effective support to be delivered exactly where it is needed on a scale which we haven’t seen before.

Making a positive difference

The experience of GoodSAM to date, shows how much people want to make a positive difference to those around them – as seen during this crisis and through our Cardiac Programme.

However, the demands and pressures of modern life all too often mean that many simply don’t have the time or resources to commit to volunteering on a regular basis.

That’s where we come in. Everyone has a few free ad hoc moments to spare and the majority of us have a smartphone. App based volunteering brings huge potential to revolutionise how organisations grow, engage and deploy their volunteers – and in turn, improve and save lives.

Health and care professionals can start making referrals into the NHS Volunteer Responders referrer’s portal immediately via Here they can select the type of support needed and the frequency of that support. Alternatively, they can call 0808 196 3382 to make a referral.