Local health leaders praise vital role of volunteers in vaccine roll-out
Volunteers from across Norfolk and Waveney have been helping the NHS to roll-out its biggest-ever vaccination programme.
Voluntary Norfolk and Community Action Suffolk have been working with NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Cambridgeshire Community Services and local GP practices to provide support at vaccination centres across the region.
Following a recruitment campaign last year there are now several hundred active volunteers helping with operational duties at vaccination sites and providing transport to vulnerable patients who need to get to their vaccination appointments.
In Norfolk the Covid Response team, coordinated by Voluntary Norfolk, currently has more than 150 volunteers deployed at vaccination centres across the region. Most are working as marshals directing traffic in car parks, and guiding patients inside the centres, but others are helping in administrative roles and phoning patients to book appointments. In the week ending 5 February alone, these volunteers had completed 337 individual shifts.
Voluntary Norfolk also has volunteers supporting other local NHS services and is working with the NHS to develop new voluntary roles for which yet more volunteers will be needed.
Melanie Craig, Chief Executive of the Norfolk and Waveney CCG said: “We’re extremely grateful to all the volunteers who are supporting our staff at vaccination sites across the region. Their contribution is absolutely crucial in helping maintain a steady flow of patients through the centres so our clinical staff can focus on delivering vaccinations.”
As further centres open across the region in the coming weeks, many more volunteers will be needed to help the NHS deliver the vaccination programme.
Mrs Craig added: “With more centres opening soon I would encourage anyone who would like to help to get in touch with Voluntary Norfolk or Community Action Suffolk. The vaccination programme is moving at a remarkable pace and to maintain this momentum we will need many more volunteers to help at the vaccination hubs.”
Norfolk volunteer Sue Garwood (Pictured) has been helping at vaccination clinics in Thetford and Cringleford, doing one or two shifts a week, each of about four hours.
“The tasks vary between shifts” says Sue. “You might be marshalling outside, welcoming patients inside, making sure hygiene procedures are followed, signing people off a register or calling patients to make and confirm appointments. There is a lot to do at each vaccination centre and there are lot of volunteers, just like me, all over the county helping to make this happen.”
Sue is full of praise for the efficiency of the vaccination programme: “I am staggered at the sheer number of people who are passing through these vaccination centres. Up to 400 people were vaccinated on one of my recent afternoon shifts, and a similar number would have been vaccinated that morning; it’s very impressive!”
Alan Hopley, Chief Executive of Voluntary Norfolk said: “We have an amazing volunteer workforce who have really stepped up to the mark to help the NHS with its vaccination programme. Others are helping to support isolated and vulnerable people who need help with the basics like collecting prescriptions or shopping. Some are providing telephone
friendship calls or door-step welfare checks. It’s been an unprecedented year and it’s humbling to see so many people offering their support to others.”
In Waveney, Community Action Suffolk has been coordinating volunteers for vaccine hubs and patient transport. One group, the Lowestoft and Waveney Rugby Club has recently offered its services to East Suffolk Council to help get vulnerable patients to their appointments at the vaccination centres at Oulton Broad, Kirkley and Reydon.
Tony Falco of the Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Rugby Club said: “We started using our minibus to run shopping trips for older people after one of the local bus routes was cancelled. Now, with the opening of vaccination sites, we’re helping the local community transport provider BACT in providing transport for vulnerable people needing to get to their appointments.”
With the vaccination programme spanning several months, recruitment of volunteers will be an ongoing process. Voluntary Norfolk and Community Action Suffolk are urging anyone interested to get in touch and discuss the opportunities.
If you would like to join the volunteer team in Norfolk, helping roll out vaccinations in your area, sign up via the Voluntary Norfolk website
Anyone who would like to volunteer in the Waveney (North Suffolk) area should contact www.volunteersuffolk.org.uk