Comment Writer Issy Griffiths looks at the NHS Coronavirus volunteering scheme and explores other ways we can do our bit to help fight the the pandemic
More than 750,000 people have now signed up to the NHS volunteer scheme to offer what they can in this time of crisis, 500,000 of which were in the first 24 hours. As such the NHS has had to temporarily suspend sign ups in order to process the sheer number of applications which amounted to well over double the original estimations.
The scheme was established in order to provide practical help and support to the 1.5 million people in the UK with underlying health conditions who are most at risk amidst the coronavirus outbreak. So what sort of jobs will our NHS ‘Volunteer Army’ be called upon to do? So far four main roles have been identified, involving the collecting of patients’ medicines from pharmacies; the transporting of patients to and from medical appointments; the distributing of medical equipment and supplies to various NHS sites, and the providing of telephone support to individuals who may be lonely during this period.
This huge wave of sign ups is extremely encouraging and shows just how keen the UK population is to support each other during this difficult time. However, with recruitment to the NHS Volunteer scheme temporarily put on hold, how else can we do our bit to help? Below are a few ideas:
Support Elderly Neighbours
This could involve doing some food shopping for them, picking up their prescriptions or even just giving them a phone call to help them feel less lonely. Many will be too shy to ask for help so it would be great if we reached out to them ourselves. Another thing we can do which could make a huge difference is making sure they have things to do and can continue their hobbies, for instance dropping off some DVDs on their doorstep, or even some wool if they enjoy knitting. These next few weeks are likely to get pretty boring so small acts of kindness like these may be just as important as offering practical help.
This one has gained lots of attention in recent weeks but perhaps needs mentioning anyway. In their pleas for customers to stop buying more than they would normally, supermarkets are maintaining that there is enough food for everyone. Buying more than we need means that others may be left without, as it is often the cheap essentials such as pasta that go first, and which many poorer families tend to rely on.
Support Independent Takeaway Businesses
I don’t think this one will take much convincing. Naturally businesses are struggling at the moment with the restrictions in place, and these are some of the last ones that we can still support. And hey – it’s a great excuse not to cook tonight. A win-win.
Check Up On Loved Ones
I would say this is perhaps the most important one and the way in which we can make the biggest difference. Obviously this is a very difficult time for everyone: life is pretty mundane and it can be hard to keep your spirits up. Lots of loved ones might also be struggling with mental health difficulties during this period and many may have family members who have been affected by the virus. So a few extra FaceTime calls and just being especially caring towards your loved ones in these next few weeks would definitely not go amiss.
People have generally been extremely supportive of one another over this time anyway. For instance videos have surfaced of kids putting on dance shows for their elderly neighbors from across the street, likewise last week and again, last night we saw thousands of people clapping our frontline NHS workers together outside their front doors. And of course this huge wave of sign-ups to the NHS ‘volunteer army’ is extremely encouraging- showing just how ready the UK is to do our bit to help others during this unprecedented crisis. Let’s try to keep this momentum up in the weeks to follow, as let’s face it – we’re in for the long haul.
Though applications for the NHS volunteer scheme have been temporarily put on hold, the link to sign up for when they reopen can be found here.
Check out some other Redbrick articles about what you can do with yourself during the lockdown: