Army of coronavirus volunteers will boost morale of NHS workers, victims commissioner says

The army of volunteers who have stepped forward to help the NHS during the coronavirus criss will lift the spirits of health workers and boost the morale of the wider public, says Britain’s former victims commissioner.

Baroness Newlove of Warrington, the Conservative peer and communities campaigner, said the more than 700,000 people who had already volunteered to help take food to the homes of the vulnerable and deliver vital equipment, were “showing people that they’re not on their own”.

More than 500,000 people signed up in just 24 hours this week after Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, urged people to donate their time to help the 1.5 million vulnerable people who have to self-isolate for 12 weeks, as shown in the video below.

Anyone over the age of 18, fit, healthy and non-symptomatic can help to deliver shopping to vulnerable people, transport patients to and from hospital, drive medicines and equipment to NHS facilities and check up on isolated individuals by telephone.

Baroness Newlove, whose husband Garry was killed by a gang of thugs in Warrington in 2007, says volunteering will lift the spirits of those taking part in the scheme, like herself, and send a strong signal to NHS workers that the country is behind them.

She told The Telegraph: “It’s a scary time, but if people can pull together we’ll get through it. This is about showing people that they’re not on their own. And not only does it lift the moral of people in the NHS to know that there’s thousands of people out there working to take the pressure off them, it’s a boost for everybody else’s morale as well.

“We’re all getting cabin fever, stuck at home with the kids driving them crazy running around all the time, and this scheme will help because it allows everybody to do their bit.”

Baroness Newlove, who served as Victims Commissioner for more than six years from 2012, said that along with thousands of other volunteers she was waiting to hear what role might be assigned to her.

She said: “I love driving so I imagine I’ll be delivering food or pharmaceuticals to the vulnerable, anything useful like that. But if you can’t drive there’s still lots of things people can do – such as talking to others over the phone to make sure they don’t suffer from complete isolation.

“I may be a Baroness now but I’m quite normal really, like everybody else. In fact I know several of my colleagues in the House of Lords have also signed up. Fundamentally it’s about helping health workers, so if we can take some of the pressure off them it’s all to the good.”

Another volunteer, Lauren Turner, 21, a student at the University of Sheffield, (pictured below) said she had time on her hands after teaching for the final year of her journalism degree became online-only.

Coronavirus NHS volunteer Lauren Turner, 21

She said: “I signed up because I wanted to make a difference to people that really needed the help, with me being healthy at the minute and being bored at home. I have my own car and I want to help as much as I possibly can during this awful time.

“Both sets of my grandparents are self isolating and my grandma has suspected symptoms but at the minute it’s just a cough. So we’re hoping that’s all it is.”

Laurence Penn, 23, a graduate engineer based in Leeds, added: “There’ll be millions needing help potentially and in the same way as Lord Kitchener called upon everybody to help in the war effort, we’re being called upon to do our part. If previous generations were called on to make such a large sacrifice, I’m happy to be called on to do a bit of shopping.

Following the initial success in recruiting volunteers the Government increased its target to 750,000 people. Once appropriate checks have been carried out on them the volunteers will be provided with the log-in to the GoodSAM Responder app on which they will be able to find and select local assignments.

Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS Director of Primary Care, said: “This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments where a single action from one person can be the difference between life and death for another, and simple acts of kindness are going to make all the difference in keeping some of the most vulnerable people well and out of hospital.”

Genevieve Schwartz, 28, a jewellery designer from North London

“I got the link from loads of people the first night it came out and then again in the morning and I signed up at lunchtime. 

“It was a really straightforward process, all you had to do was put in your name, DOB, where you live and then put in a very brief overview of your health history. 

“I offered to do all three segments, it was phone calling, delivering – I actually only have a pushbike but they said that’s fine for now – and then also shopping or running errands. 

“I think being a younger person with no underlying health conditions I feel like there is a responsibility for the younger generation to get involved. 

“What appealed to me about this one is because the NHS is the coordinator it felt like the biggest and hopefully the most organised way of actually helping out. 

“So my incentive to do it was both that and I felt like I was in a good position to be out in the street if I have to be. I’m still working 9-5.30 as a jewelry designer for a brand luckily but I have weekends and evenings. 

“It would be really nice if it continues after the outbreak. It’s been really interesting I live in an apartment block and all around me are these high rises and I said to my partner today its funny because the guy opposite me, we don’t know him, but we see him every day now in his “office” and we’ve started waving to each other now whereas we would never have done that before – it’s like we know him now, we’ve become mates. 

“So it would be nice if something came out of this as well.”

Courier driver Mike Davies has signed up to volunteer for the NHS during the crisis

Credit: Paul Cooper/The Telegraph

Mike Davies, 62, courier driver from St Helens, Merseyside

“I wanted to help in a time of crisis. It’s been described as a national crisis by the Prime Minister and I thought I should get involved. 

“I’m a self-employed courier driver delivering documents around the country in a small van, so I thought I would volunteer my services to the appeal.

“Work hasn’t dried up for me completely because of the crisis. I’m sub-contracted by Royal Mail for some of their deliveries and as a courier I’ve been designated a key worker because of ferrying important documents and equipment. But I’ve got time to volunteer. This morning for example I started at 6.30am and was finished by around 10.30.

“I saw the appeal for volunteers during the health secretary’s press conference so I Googled it and started the process of applying straight away. It was very straightforward and only took about five minutes.

“They got back to me and said that it will take them about a few days to carry out all the appropriate checks and I should be started around the 31st of this month.

“I think I will be ferrying medicines and equipment round the country because they obviously fit in the van and are vital for people to get through this.

“I wouldn’t say I’m not at all worried about being out and about, but I’m not panicking. To be honest I work in splendid isolation all the time as it is and even if I do meet people it’s quite easy to keep the recommended two metre distance between us.

“There’s really been a fabulous response to the call for NHS volunteers and I’m pleased to be doing this for people. I’ve got two grown up sons and even though would never admit it or tell me I think they’re quite proud of what the dad is doing.”

Ed Lock, 21, marketing student from Leighton Buzzard

“I read the Telegraph article and learned more about the volunteer scheme through that, and then I clicked through on the external link and read more about it. I don’t really have a lot to do at the moment so it just seemed like the obvious thing to sign up for, to help people and get something out of.

“I’ve done pretty much all my university assignments so I’ve just got to wait for the exams, but they’re online anyway.

“I’m doing the community support volunteer role which is picking up shopping and medicine for vulnerable people. Just the thought of people struggling when they shouldn’t be drew me to that, and the idea of being able to do my little bit by giving back.

“I’ve got a neighbour who’s well into her eighties, so it’s the thought of other people like that who don’t have people, and those who don’t have the support network to get things otherwise.”

Lawrence Penn: “We’re being called upon to do our part”

Lawrence Penn, 23, graduate engineer based in Leeds

“I’m hoping to help deliver some bits and pieces – shopping and medication – and I’ll be able to say to myself I did my little bit, even if it’s small.

“There’ll be millions needing help potentially and in the same way as Lord Kitchener called upon everybody to help in the war effort, we’re being called upon to do our part. If previous generations were called on to make such a large sacrifice, I’m happy to be called on to do a bit of shopping.

“Looking at my grandparents they’re all in their late eighties now, so that very much puts them into the at-risk category. One of them is in and out of hospital for cancer treatment and one of them diabetic. So I’m quite aware with the isolation thing that if other people aren’t doing it, they could be passing it on to my grandparents, and there’ll be lots of others in the same position.

“I reckon I’ve had it myself because I had the tickly cough, the fever, the lack of energy and everything. So I stayed inside for a week and my symptoms actually lasted longer than that so I kept on staying in just emerging from it now, a week and a half later. Having had symptoms and recovering I can be in quite a good position to help.”

Primary school worker Angie Kennedy

Credit: Solent News & Photo Agency

Angie Kennedy, 53, primary school behaviour and intervention team leader from Waterlooville,  Hampshire

“There is a need to do this. We need to step up. It’s about taking the pressure off the NHS. Doing something is better than doing nothing. You have to – we’ve seen how selfish people can be with the panic buying. And you can’t do that. You’ve got to think collectively as a whole. It’s not about one person.

“Needs must. You go back to the war time, you have the air raid patrols and when the sirens went off, they didn’t run into the shelters. Sometimes you have to be selfless. And there will be people who have greater needs than your own. 

“I will take every precaution going, I will glove up, put my mask on. It’s so that the elderly and vulnerable can get the shopping they need.”

“I’m doing this for the people who need it. If I was at home and i couldn’t go out, I’d be worrying about what would happen to me.

“It’s important for them to know that there is someone out there and they can reach out.”

“The NHS is overstretched – everyone working there is putting themselves at risk and doing it for the sake of everyone else – not for themselves.

“We’ve all been in hospital for things, and it’s a way of saying thanks – they’ve done a service for us, now it’s time for us to help them.”

“It’s for my own sanity as well. I miss my freedom, I miss being able to help people because that’s who I am. I miss communicating with as many people as I used to.

“And this is a really great opportunity for me to do that. I could sit in all day and watch Netflix but I can’t. I’m absolutely buzzing to go out. I would be happy doing this every day – what else do I have to do?”

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