Volunteers’ Week 1-7 June is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering. Oxford Health has just over 200 volunteers who support our patients, staff and the trust in many different roles: helping at the wards, gardening in our green spaces or assisting in administrative tasks.

“Thank you to our wonderful volunteers. Your support makes a massive difference to our trust throughout the year,” said community involvement manager Julie Pink.

She continued: “This Volunteers’ Week is unlike any I have seen in my 15+ years managing volunteers.  There are no events planned, there are no coffee mornings to say thank you and share cake, and there are no national events to further develop volunteer programmes.

A very special yet everyday gift: the laundry bag.

“But, having said that, this year there is so much more to be grateful for and to say thank you to all volunteers.”

Director of corporate affairs Kerry Rogers said: ‘The support that our volunteers have given throughout the pandemic has been so heart-warming to see.  We know that not everyone has been able to do what they would normally do and that roles have been changed by restrictions, but the desire to support patients, carers and staff is still at the top of your lists just as it is for us.  Thank you.’

Embracing new tasks

From March onwards this year Oxford Health volunteers have taken to new tasks with gusto.

One team (pictured above) has been right at the heart of responding to the pandemic by providing vital help in distributing PPE to nursing teams. The team has been sorting PPE from big deliveries into individual packs of ten of everything: masks, gloves and aprons. Nurses can pick their pack at a time that is convenient for them. Working in socially distanced groups, the team has been producing over 600 packs a day, freeing staff to focus on their duties.

Marilyn and Alan Trigg joined the PPE effort as a couple and can hence work together, leading to an impressive daily output.

Alan and Marilyn Trigg have been an ace pair for packing PPE – pictured here well before the pandemic.

They have also inspired other volunteers to get their spouses, partners and children to join the team. The couple said:

“The people at the centre are wonderful; kind, caring and welcoming.  They have been truly lovely to us and made us feel part of a team.  We have been totally trusted to organise ourselves and work in our own way, which has been great.  We have a routine and quickly get into it; the time goes very quickly.  We like doing our bit to help amongst nice people and a friendly atmosphere.”

Crafters get creative

Volunteers who had to self-isolate were invited to make laundry bags which staff use to safely transport and wash their uniforms.

Debbie Hill busy with her sewing machine.

Volunteer Debbie Hill placed an ad in a local newsletter appealing for materials and help, and had a great response:

“I received several offers from kind ladies offering their time and donations. I feel totally humbled by this and will continue to make bags for as long as I have material. A huge thankyou to all involved in helping to protect our front-line staff safe. Thankyou NHS, our amazing heroes.”

Volunteers have also made headbands that help keep the face masks up, and cards which are used for sending positive messages to palliative care patients.

New support line for carers

This week will also see the launch of a new support line for carers. Di Hilson, the trust lead for carers, is working with existing volunteers to establish a befriending line for carers who are feeling in need of support during the pandemic. The line will not be for emergencies or to offer clinical advice, but will give carers a chance to have a chat.  The volunteers will receive notification of who to call and will be able to do so from their homes.  This way some of the trust’s volunteers, who have been unable to help due to their own need to shield, can get involved and contribute.  All the volunteers will be supported by Di and receive ongoing training.

Volunteering safely

All Oxford Health volunteers are encouraged to complete a COVID-19 risk assessment which will help the trust to plan volunteers’ return to their usual roles. Volunteers and their family members can also have a test, should they become symptomatic. The risk assessment and testing are managed by the trust occupational health team.

Want to volunteer?

Oxford Health is not currently recruiting new volunteers. If you would like to volunteer, please do so via local community groups or NHS Responders.

When new volunteering roles come open, or when we can start recruiting again to our existing roles, all posts will published on our volunteering pages here.