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Volunteers' Week 2021

Volunteers' Week 2021

Late in January this year I found myself leading the volunteer programme for four mass vaccination centres across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, including centres in Basingstoke, Southampton, and Portsmouth. It’s been the most fantastic experience; one that will change the way I work (and live) forever.

Solent NHS Trust is the lead provider for these four sites, who collectively have the capacity to vaccinate over 4,000 people a day. As part of the teams running the sites, there are volunteer roles for Outdoor Marshals (guiding traffic and people), Indoor Guides (supporting those being vaccinated and observing where there is a 15 minute wait) as well as Volunteer Vaccinators.

Those who have visited any vaccine centre will have noticed volunteers around the sites, but may not be aware of the sheer scale of their contribution. For our sites alone, we have 216 volunteers a day working with us (that's 1,764 volunteers a week) and volunteers make up between 15-20% of the workforce at each site. If you imagine how many centres there are around the country, and that many will be running for months, the scale of the volunteer contribution becomes almost bewildering.

We’ve only been able to deliver the Solent COVID-19 Vaccine Programme because of the support we’ve had from voluntary organisations. They’ve done the lion’s share of the recruitment and rostering of the volunteers, and have also opened our eyes to the volunteer army that props up the NHS in the community. Huge credit to our main partners: Basingstoke Voluntary Action, the HIVE Portsmouth, Community Action Isle of Wight, HANTSAR, St John Ambulance, Royal Voluntary Services and Southampton Voluntary Services.

If you’ve been on site, you'll have seen the volunteers - they are a phenomenal group of people and they come from all walks of life. We’ve got film directors, people who own hotels, large businesses, even a nuclear physicist! We also have retired nurses, hairdressers, and pastors. All are highly skilled individuals who are brilliant at dealing with people coming for the vaccines, many of whom are anxious. They bring gentle humour and compassion, and quietly keep the sites flowing. They stand out in all weathers, are always cheerful and helpful, and bring such a huge benefit to the overall running of the sites.

This week is national Volunteers' Week, a time to say a special thank you. You’ll hear lots of stories from volunteers across the Trust, and please do share any stories you have of either volunteering or meeting our volunteers, you can email the team at: vaccine.volunteers@solent.nhs.uk

And if you're at a vaccine centre, do take the time to stop and say hello.

About the author

I am the Associate Director for Research and Improvement, and the Volunteer Lead for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight mass vaccination centres. I lead the Academy, its core team and the clinical academic programme for Solent NHS Trust. I also work nationally and across Wessex on a number of areas, such as quality improvement, research strategy, patient and community partnership working and workforce development.

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