01/06/2021 | Press releases

Volunteers’ Week celebrates dedication of the team

They’re the backbone of the NHS, giving up hours of their time every week to help. To celebrate their hard work, we’re shining a spotlight on five of our many volunteers who have dedicated their time as part of Volunteers’ Week.

Robin Coates, volunteer working in the pharmacy

Robin Coates working in the pharmacy at Colchester Hospital

Robin Coates, 61, is a grandfather-of-one and has been volunteering one day a week in the pharmacy department at Colchester Hospital for the last three years, as well as volunteering at the helpline and Vaccination Hub through the pandemic. 

“After I retired from my job as a product manager in the consumer electronics industry, I decided to look for a role volunteering to help me keep active and feel I was still contributing.

“I provide support for the team in the main pharmacy unit: over-labelling drugs, restocking the stores, picking orders for the wards and making deliveries around the hospital. The pharmacy includes a manufacturing facility, so delivering medication up to the clinics as soon as they are ready for patients is a priority.

“The pharmacy team work all around the hospital and it is great to be part of this friendly knowledgeable team who support the rest of the medical staff.

“Through COVID I also volunteered on the staff helpline and at the vaccination hub. Seeing how busy the vaccination centre was, I decided to walk in and asked if they needed help at the same time as the call went out for volunteers. It was a great place to volunteer as they were all tremendously dedicated and were amazing at dealing with the constantly changing demands of the situation.

“I continued my role in the pharmacy department too, as the impact of the epidemic resulted in a reduction in pharmacy staff numbers because of self-isolation and illness, while the demand for medication remained high.

“Volunteering at the hospital anchors my week and feels like I’m doing something to help.”

Beth Kemp

Beth Kemp, 36, is a mum-of-three from Leiston. She has been volunteering with the welcome team at Ipswich Hospital while she was furloughed from her job at Leiston Film Theatre.

“I saw a poster on Facebook asking for volunteers and thought I would sign up. I was furloughed from my job where I work in front of house. I’m a really sociable person so thought it would be good to do something with people rather than stay at home and feel isolated.

“I’ve been reminding people to wear masks and sanitise their hands, as well as help people sign in on the sign-in screens. I’ve helped people in wheelchairs and been there if people need me.

“Volunteering at the hospital every Friday has been great. It’s really helped with my mental health through lockdown, and although I’m now back at my job so had to stop volunteering, I plan to go back as I enjoyed it so much.”

Michael Wu and Brian Chan volunteering in the vaccination hub at Colchester
Michael Wu (left) and Brian Chan (right) at the Colchester Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccination Hub

Michael Wu, 17, and Brian Chan, 17, both volunteered in the Vaccination Hub at Colchester Hospital. Brian and Michael are studying for their A levels and want to apply to study medicine.

Michael: “I thought volunteering would be a great opportunity to gain some experience, especially to witness a once-in-a-lifetime vaccination programme.

“It was so interesting seeing how the team worked together and supported each other. It was also a great opportunity to gain advice from all the other people, and I’m certain I want a career in medicine now.”

Brian: “Like Michael, I want to study medicine and thought it would be a great insight. We cleaned chairs, prepared information leaflets, sanitised pens – did the simple stuff so staff could focus on vaccinating people.

“I absolutely loved it and plan to volunteer again in the hospital or at a hospice. What I loved most was working in the team and everyone looking after each other.

“It was a very calm environment, but whenever we had an unfortunate incident with a patient, it was eye opening to see all the medical experts working together to ensure the safety of the patient.”

Melissa Goodrich

Melissa Goodrich, 41, volunteered while working full time during the pandemic. The personal injury claims handler from Ipswich worked two or three shifts on the staff helpline and then went on to work in the vaccination hub.

“Everyone was doing something to help and I wanted to do my bit. So at the start of the first lockdown I began volunteering at the staff helpline. I’m close to Ipswich Hospital, so I’d cycle the eight minutes there for my 5.30am to 9am shift two to three times a week. Then I’d cycle back in time for my job at 9am.

“My manager at the insurance company I work for is very supportive, so they were happy I was volunteering while working.

“My role was talking through with staff what they needed to do if they had a cough or a temperature and what the process for self-isolation was.

“I then volunteered in the vaccination hub. I’m quite happy to be told what to do – give me a job and I’ll do it. I cleaned chairs, pens, manned the massive queues and helped people fill in questionnaires.

“It was brilliant. I met amazing people and all the nurses made me feel like I was part of the team.”

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