The Cabinet Office and a consortium including NHS England are to provide £2.6m to support voluntary organisations and volunteers working in hospitals over the winter period.
The bulk of the money, £2m, will be made available through the Reducing Winter Pressures Fund, which will run eight projects to keep older people healthy and help them recover more quickly from illness. This funding comes from a partnership between the Cabinet Office and the National Tripartite, a group including NHS England and the NHS Trust Development Authority.
Among the groups to secure funding is Royal Voluntary Service in the east midlands, which will use the money to develop its "hospital to home" service to help more than 600 older people discharged from hospital recover more quickly and regain confidence.
David McCullough, chief executive of Royal Voluntary Service, said in a statement: "We know that the right help on a return home from a hospital stay can make a huge difference to the health and well-being of older patients, and our research has found that support such as this can reduce readmissions by as much as 50 per cent."
A second tranche of money, £600,000, will be paid to six NHS trusts to boost volunteering schemes in hospitals through the Helping in Hospitals programme.
This funding, which has come from a partnership between the Cabinet Office and Nesta, will be used to develop existing volunteer schemes in hospitals to help improve patient satisfaction and outcomes.
Sheffield NHS Foundation Trust, which has received some of the funding, will use it to expand pilot schemes run by volunteers including an on-call service in which volunteers are paged to respond to patients with the most pressing needs across wards and departments.
The trust hopes to increase volunteer numbers by a third, to more than 1,000.
The government said the £2.6m investment was in recognition of the part voluntary groups could play in improving patient health and satisfaction.
Brooks Newmark, the Minister for Civil Society, said: "Taken together, we believe that these projects will showcase the potential of social action to reduce hospital pressures and improve patient experience, and will be sustained into the long term by local commissioners."