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Corona NHS Nightingale Hospital North West 3

Volunteering for the NHS

Now Then spoke to an NHS Volunteer Responder about the experience of helping to vaccinate people in the region against Covid-19.

NHS Volunteer Responder is signing up its existing network and the public for steward volunteer roles. These roles will largely be supporting the vaccination centres which are operating across the country.

In the meantime, members of the public who are able to support their neighbours and the NHS through a number of roles – including food or medication deliveries, lifts to medical appointments or ‘check-in and chat’ phone calls – can do so by signing up to the NHS Volunteer Responder programme.

Many local NHS trusts are also using their own volunteer schemes and you can check their websites for details.

Now Then has managed to contact one such volunteer, JoJo Maylott, and these are some of her experiences.

How did you get involved with helping out?

After being furloughed for the third time, I was really keen to do something good with my time. I looked at volunteering for St John Ambulance and started filling in the application form, before realising that at that moment in time they were only taking on qualified healthcare workers. I then searched for Covid Marshall volunteering and found Manchester Community Central. As soon as I signed up here, I could volunteer.

What training is required? At one point it was reported that vaccinators (not the stewards) required training.

As a Covid Marshall, there’s an induction at the start of every shift. This includes info regarding the site, expectations, health and safety, housekeeping and introductions to the Lead GP, Lead Nurse, Volunteer Coordinator and Ops Manager. I haven’t trained in giving vaccines, but I’ve heard there’s lots of training involved. It’s mostly online, but you do have a face-to-face training day, and you have someone with you when you first start vaccinating.

What technology is required? Is it just a smartphone and the GoodSAM app?

I book all my shifts through email, so I don’t have the GoodSAM app. I have a smartphone but it isn’t a necessity if you have access to email via a tablet or desktop computer. However, the shifts do fill up very quickly, so I have set up notifications on my smartphone so I know when I receive a new email regarding volunteering.

Can you choose the location you work?

I’m set up to volunteer in Central Manchester and the Northwest, so my emails are always based at sites in or around Manchester. I’ve been volunteering at The Vallance Centre in Ardwick, Plant Hill Clinic in Blackley and The Jain Centre in Levenshulme. Quite often, the new shifts come up with not much notice and at multiple sites, so volunteers can choose between them.

What does a typical shift involve?

It starts with a lateral flow test if you haven’t had one in the last three days. We then have an induction and head to our stations. I’ve mostly been welcoming patients into the clinic, and asking them a few questions around previous Covid test results and any new symptoms. I always make sure I welcome everyone with a smile, even though no one can see my face, and a friendly ‘hello’. I guide them to registration, and explain the process a little. I do this for most of my shift, and include a 20-minute break for coffee at some point.

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Covid-19 Posters in Manchester

Ged Camera

How safe do you feel during a shift?

I feel safer when doing a shift than I do anywhere else at the moment. We’re all so careful because we don’t want to pass anything onto the patients. We change our masks a few times each shift; we’re constantly cleaning our hands with anti-bac; we try to maintain social distancing but it isn’t always possible – some people need physical support; we clean the chairs every time someone moves; and screens are used at registration. Most clinics have a one-way system.

For some of the elderly it may be the first time they’ve been out in ages. What is their attitude like? Is there a sense of relief?

It’s amazing how quickly you become an expert in reading body language. You can see if someone is feeling particularly anxious. We always try to do our best to accommodate folk by guiding them to a quieter pod for their vaccine. It can be so overwhelming for anyone who’s been shielding, so we just try and make it as easy and as safe as possible. Generally speaking, there is a sense of relief for most, but some are terrified of needles. I’ve had my vaccine, so I try to reassure that it doesn’t hurt. Others have more serious concerns about side effects etc, so I ask them to speak to their vaccinator. There’s always a Lead GP on site too.

Do you need to take any hygiene measures when you get home such as going straight to the shower or having a complete change of clothes?

I feel so safe when I’m in the clinic environment that I don’t feel the need to shower or wash my clothes as soon as I’m home. We’re given a hi-vis vest, which we always wear on shift, so it’s a good idea to wash that regularly. Volunteering doesn’t affect furlough pay at all.

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Social distancing paint on the footway

Ged Camera

What would you say to anyone thinking of volunteering?

I’d say go for it! It’s been so rewarding for me. I’ve been furloughed for seven out of the last 12 months. I was starting to feel really lonely, so going out and talking to people in the clinics has been essential to my mental well-being. I usually volunteer three or four shifts a week to keep me out of trouble. There are quite a few different roles, so I’m sure there’s something for everyone.

It’s been really lovely seeing people I know from the local community come in for their vaccine, knowing this is going to make life a little easier for them.

At the end of a shift, how does it feel? Relief, exhilaration or something in between?

It’s a mixture for sure. The length of shifts varies at each site, they’re quite long at The Vallance Centre, starting at 7.45am and ending around 2pm for the early shifts, and 1.30pm to 7pm for the later shifts. So it’s tiring, but in a nice way. Like you’ve accomplished something great that day by helping so many people. I love it.

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