Volunteering team at Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust is known for "Resilience, comradeship and loyalty"

29th October 2021

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The Covid-19 Pandemic transformed our lives, in ways many of us would have thought unimaginable previously. It has brought out both the best and the worst in humanity. Showing courage and resolve, selflessly giving their time and resources, towards the fight against this invisible enemy, which has devastated so many communities our volunteers stepped forward.

Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust (SCFT) is determined to highlight the incredible work that the 429 volunteer team is currently performing. The words of resilience, comradeship and loyalty spring to mind in the first instance. With their hard work, they have contributed to supporting clinical staff in delivering over half a million vaccinations across the region. They have volunteered for several months in emotional and challenging situations involving very large numbers of the public and a huge breadth of age groups.

The volunteers at the sites are a mixture of existing SCFT volunteers, new volunteers to the Trust and volunteers from other organisations who have stepped forward to help their community. The Royal Volunteer Service RVS, commissioned by NHS England, is also stepping up to the challenge and their volunteers have so far contributed over 1,000 cover shifts. They come from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds. Across Sussex, at vaccination centres in Chichester, Crawley, Eastbourne, Etchingham and Brighton, hundreds of SCFT volunteers stepped up, taking on essential roles as stewards, marshals and Volunteer Coordinators.

Brighton, as an example, witnessed the transformation of the iconic Brighton Centre, along the famous seafront, converted into a vaccination centre, which at the peak of the programme saw up to 3,000 people vaccinated each day. By July, over 500, 000 individuals had received a vaccine for Covid-19, a monumental task, that would simply not have been possible without the support of volunteers.

The volunteer team worked tirelessly across three shifts per day, for four hours per shift, to ensure the smooth flow of patients through the five sites. Volunteers took both the time and the effort, to assist and reassure elderly and disabled patients, compassionately comforting and gently supporting many hundreds of people through the centres each hour. They also assisted clinical and security teams, to ensure the orderly, smooth flow of queues through the centres. During Volunteers Week in July of 2021, an opportunity was given to communities across the county to express their appreciation to all our hard-working volunteers. Hundreds of colourful messages were left on boards at various centres, by individuals, with heartfelt gratitude for the excellent support received by volunteers.

To put the achievements and commitment of the volunteer team into perspective, here are some of the numbers that highlight their success in supporting the Sussex region vaccination efforts: Volunteers have carried out 25,898 shifts and given 106,273 hours of their time. A total of 897 local people have volunteered at the centres since they opened 75 volunteers have taken on additional responsibilities to become Volunteer Coordinators. These incredible volunteers have looked after and supported the volunteers on their shifts. Many volunteers have been attending several shifts a week. A total workforce of 429 active volunteers are currently supporting the three remaining centres at Brighton, Chichester and Eastbourne.

This volunteer team deserves to be recognised as everyone has achieved an outstanding accomplishment of commitment. They have been flexible and stepped up to cover shifts where necessary. The volunteers have been reliable and attended when needed. They have handled situations sensitively, many involving members of the public who needed support. They have found friendship and made connections and delivered excellent customer care. For many of the volunteers coming to help us, it was an opportunity to seek out other volunteers due to isolation from the Covid Virus, they came willingly and it was heartening to hear personal stories. Many of which were of a life of furlough and staying at home. The volunteer team tolerate the wearing of PPE throughout their shifts and don’t complain, they comply with our requests for regular Lateral flow Tests and are always willing to update their training as areas get identified. They commit to attending daily briefings and contribute where appropriate with ideas and suggestions around improvements. Feedback from our public includes: “You are totally awesome, we are lucky to have you.” “What a well-organized operation! It feels truly unbelievable.” “Wonderful Service!” “ Lovely smiley people!” “You lot are ACE!” “Just sorry you cannot see us smile, through these masks!” “Awesome and friendly made my experience so much more pleasant!” “Thank you so much, everyone was friendly, informative and very kind! Well Done!” “Thank You, brilliant job all of you!”

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