How the COVID-19 crisis has changed NHS Voluntary Services at the Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust
Published: 27 April 2020
How did you manage things when the crisis began?
The team’s initial worry at the start of the COVID crisis was for the 90 older people who usually attend the team’s community groups. Socially isolated and struggling with long term mental health conditions and dementia, we felt that they were amongst our most vulnerable groups.
We have various volunteers with a range of vulnerabilities, so one of our first actions was to notify all volunteers to stand down until further instructions, and to follow government advice at all times.
How did you adapt your services to use your volunteers’ time for good?
Early on, the supermarkets were frightening and chaotic, so we identified the people with no support network, providing them with an emergency food parcel donated by Tesco St Stephens who are one of our supporters. Of course, these parcels were distributed by our amazing volunteers.
We then came up with a plan to start a telephone befriending service run by the volunteers. Many of our regular volunteers are now befriending, so that they still feel like they are helping from home. The service has been just as beneficial for the volunteers as for our service users, who have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. A member of our team even brought their Dad on board as a new befriender, much to the delight of her Mum who says that Dad is much happier since making the calls.
“On his befriending days he is much lighter; feeling animated, bubbly and full of life. He feels like he is making a real difference.”
Around 70 people are now receiving a call, twice a week, even some of our Governors have volunteered. The befrienders also supported the registration for additional support when our community response services were launched. They encourage service users to use these services and also send us a mini report at the end of each day, to let us know how our users are doing.
We would love to continue with the telephone befriending even when our community groups resume, it has been so well received and has brought joy and comfort to many people.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced at this time?
At first, communication was difficult for the team as we are usually very interactive, sharing problems and ideas throughout the day. Of course, we were also frightened and anxious, but we knew that we had to remain strong and professional for the people relying on us.
I’m extremely proud of the team. They have stepped up and go that extra mile every day for our communities. We have had some sad news along the way, but everyone has kept going and continues to put our service users first during these challenging times.
Is there anything else going on with volunteers?
The team are supporting the Trust in many ways, mainly through the volunteer driver service. Volunteers have a rota for sorting and delivering PPE and equipment over the weekend. They are also instrumental in getting a weekly staff food hamper out to almost 50 sites each week, which is a huge job. Volunteers have recently helped out with dropping off Easter eggs, posters and bereavement packs across the Trust as well.
Also, we have been sending out newsletters to both volunteers and group members with useful community information, such as local shops who are delivering groceries or meals on wheels, as well as adding some fun and wellbeing focussed content for those who are staying indoors.
How is morale with the volunteers? How has the community responded?
There are a huge amount of people who just want to help the NHS and their community in some way, so we hope to work with staff in developing projects which can harness that good will and energy in the longer term.
We have been able to support our community partners by deploying volunteers to help local charities, community hubs and food banks; knowing that these volunteers have all of the necessary checks and training in place.
We are currently looking at supporting some volunteer based initiatives to support patient wellbeing, which will be launched soon. Keep your eyes peeled for those!