NHS volunteers have spoken about the many benefits of volunteering and health leaders have praised the local community’s overwhelming response to the coronavirus pandemic during national Volunteers Week, which runs between 1-7 June.
Mark is a volunteer with Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, which works throughout Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. He has worked with several of the Trust’s occupational therapists to set up creative writing groups for patients and worked on a number of wards across different areas. He said: “The positive experiences have been many, including working collaboratively with occupational therapists, learning how to facilitate group work, and developing my ability to listen to and reflect on what participants at the group have written.
“Just as importantly, I have been supported by the generosity of participants at the groups, who have encouraged me in my own creative writing. I have treated running the group over the past five years as my apprenticeship in creative writing, such that recently I have just completed writing my first novella. To anyone thinking about volunteering, I would say, ‘give it a go’, you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.”
Health leaders in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are also using the opportunity to pay a warm tribute to local volunteers, and the huge difference they have made to the area’s most vulnerable people since social distancing measures began in March.
Dr Jonathan Hayes, local GP and Clinical Chair at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said:
“Volunteers have always played a crucial role in health and care, but this has become even more important during the coronavirus outbreak. We made the call for support during our time of greatest need, and were overwhelmed by the response. Thousands of people across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire signed up to be NHS Volunteer Responders, and have been helping us to ensure the most vulnerable people are healthy and have everything they need.
“We also know that thousands more people have been involved in community groups to provide support to friends, relatives and neighbours. The care provided through these selfless acts of kindness has allowed the most vulnerable people in our society to stay protected and ensure health and social care services remain available to help the most seriously ill and injured people. We’ve also had a fantastic response from local businesses, who have donated medical items, such as hand sanitiser and protective equipment to enhance local supplies for essential workers.
“The reaction of our volunteers has epitomised the caring response of our communities to this crisis. We thank you all for your kindness, and for everything you continue to do to help the people most in need.”
Doctors, nurses, and those working in local authorities and other professionals concerned about a vulnerable person, can refer them for volunteer support with shopping, medication and deliveries. They can also receive check in and chat phone calls. Go to the NHS Volunteer Responders website to make your referral. Eligible people, who are shielding, can also refer themselves for volunteer support by visiting the website or calling 0808 196 3646.
Anyone wishing to provide support to elderly or vulnerable friends, relatives or neighbours can continue to help by phoning or keeping in touch on social media and picking up food or medicines. You can also visit the Government Safe Help page for guidance on how to help in a safe and effective way.
To find out more about volunteering at Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership visit the Trust's volunteering page or to register your interest in becoming a volunteer for the Trust, please email firstname.lastname@example.org