Here is another story about volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic. Louise from Oldham works for the Commissioning Team at Oldham CCG and has been working throughout the pandemic. Louise not only found herself organising volunteers but also putting herself forward to volunteer and help the residents of Oldham too:
During the pandemic, what sort of work have you been doing?
At the beginning of lockdown I was tasked with coordinating some of the redeployment and volunteering across Oldham. This involved various things like working with the council to develop the alternative discharge route and supporting the changes within primary care, which in turn supported other areas of the care system with the increased demand of community care.
How did it come about that you volunteered to help?
This came about by accident really. I worked with the COVID Assessment Hub at the Integrated Care Centre (ICC) to find out what they needed from volunteers to help them to care for the residents of Oldham. I came up with the idea to make use of the staff from the Oldham Community Leisure (OCL). They were all furloughed, had DBS checks already in place and had experience of dealing with the public, but more importantly were massively keen to help. I worked with them to develop a rota so they would be available on a set day every week to basically help out when they were needed. I had no problem filling the rota and the OCL staff really couldn’t do enough. However, this process was only introduced when I received a call one evening from the ICC requesting a volunteer within the next hour to collect and deliver medication for someone who was isolating. As I was opening my laptop to try and find someone I just said “actually, I’ll do it”. My initial thought was it would be good to experience it myself so when I was communicating the requirements to the volunteers I would know exactly how it worked and what was expected. The rota stayed in place until the OCL staff returned to work and their furlough ended, since then there have been a few more requests which I have been able to carry out myself. It was quite refreshing to go out and personally support our community after having months feeling like you’ve been locked away.
What has been volunteering been like for you?
The first one to be honest was stressful, but only because I got the call on Good Friday so pharmacists had closed early. I ended up in the centre of Manchester as I knew about a 24/7 chemist on Oxford Road, although it was interesting being in the centre of a major city to see how drastically different it looked, it was like a ghost town. Initially I was thinking I'm just running an errand like I had already been doing for family and friends that needed support but then you realise it was more than that. It was someone being helped by someone else in our community just because they needed the help and that didn’t have someone else to call on. I must admit, it did give me a warm feeling inside knowing I made a difference to someone.
What it means to you to be able to help out?
It means everything, that’s why I love working for the NHS anyway. Working for Oldham CCG can make it easy to feel removed from the differences we are making for our community so this has been the closest I've been to patient care for a long time. It was also encouraging talking to all the volunteers throughout this period. Everyone, including myself and my colleagues, just wanted to help.