An army of volunteers are drawing on their life skills and ‘day jobs’ to help patients feel at ease while having their COVID-19 vaccination.
Blackburn with Darwen Council have been working with Lancashire Volunteer Partnership and the Blackburn with Darwen CCG to help deliver the vaccination programme at Barbara Castle Way and Darwen Health Centres.
The partnership has led to an influx of compassionate, dedicated people giving up their time to help deliver the vaccination programme quickly, efficient and safely for residents of Blackburn with Darwen.
Glenn Sutton, one of the lead volunteers, retired from the Army in 2019 and is now putting his military training to good use by helping to organise volunteers and make the patient journey as efficient as possible.
The Lt Col said: “I saw the volunteer role advertised by the LVP so I signed up. I help set up the necessary stages of the patient journey, ensure volunteers have the lateral flow tests, assign roles to each volunteer and make sure they’re looked after.
“I’m a real advocate for civil society and everyone playing their part – whether that’s the following the rules or facilitating the vaccine.”
Irene Hanson is one of the first faces people see as they arrive at Barbara Caste Way Health Centre. The retired primary school teacher said: “I usually meet and greet patients as they arrive, take vital information and walk them through to the waiting area.
“I haven’t seen my children since August because they live down south – and I feel like I’m helping to protect families by volunteering.”
Driving instructor Linda Brooks hasn’t worked for eight months due to the pandemic. She said: “Patients are so grateful and thankful. It’s all very efficient now that everyone knows what they’re doing.”
Carolyn Stephens is no stranger to nervous patients. Carolyn retired as a special care dentist in November before volunteering with the vaccination programme.
She said: “My previous job means I am used to nervous patients, so I help to reassure them and put them at ease.
“The vaccination programme is the only way out of this situation. I wanted to volunteer because I wanted to be part of the solution.”
Dr Mohammed Umer, Clinical Director Blackburn with Darwen Primary Care Networks, said: “I would like to extend my gratitude to the Lancashire Volunteer Partnership for all their support in helping general practice vaccinate our residents in Blackburn with Darwen.
“The volunteers have been fantastic and are really valued by patients and healthcare staff for their altruism, commitment, making people feel at ease, and being a key component in the successful delivery of a historic vaccination programme.
“They are a testament to the great people we have in our communities trying to do their bit to get us all through this pandemic as safely as possible.”
Councillor Khan, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, added: “The roll out wouldn’t have been possible without the volunteers. Everybody brings something different to their roles and we try to play to their strengths for the benefit of the patients.”