The NHS has declared COVID-19 to be the single most significant public health emergency in its history. We've seen people support each other with little acts of neighbourly kindness, such as fetching shopping to participation in national schemes. Now, the health service needs support with a range of tasks at vaccination sites.
Volunteer with St John’s Ambulance
St John’s Ambulance is working alongside the NHS to organise vaccination volunteers. Their current round of volunteer signups has closed, but you can still register your interest in participating. The website says further opportunities will be available shortly. There are three types of roles available:
This role involves looking after patients at the vaccination centres, responding to their needs, completing documentation, and helping day-to-day activities run smoothly. Training involves online and face-to-face sessions.
These volunteers support patients throughout their time at the vaccination centre. As well as helping with some of the duties listed in the volunteer patient advocate role above, vaccination care volunteers are also on hand to provide first-aid if needed.
You don’t necessarily need to have a medical background to administer vaccinations. However, you will need two A-levels or equivalent and must undertake training and assessments. Duties include:
- administering the covid-19 vaccination
- responding to medical emergencies
- greeting patients
- signposting people to the correct services
Volunteering with St John’s Ambulance - How it works
All roles need a commitment of at least two shifts per month. Each shift will last a maximum of eight hours, and volunteers wear PPE on site.
Volunteers will need to undertake a DBS check and upload three pieces of identification (plus their usual ID).
Each role requires a different level of training, ranging from 12 hours to 21.5 hours. The organisation usually pays for travel expenses associated with training.
Volunteer via the NHS website
It is also possible to sign up to help with vaccinations via the NHS Volunteer Responder Programme. Volunteers who register on the website can undertake a variety of roles, including becoming steward volunteers. Steward volunteers may be called on to help guide people at COVID-19 vaccination sites in their local area. More details are provided upon signup.
In certain regions, there is an immediate shortage of NHS volunteers. If this is the case in your area, your GP, local newspaper, or local government website should have details of how to get involved directly.
According to the NHS website, duties for COVID-19 steward volunteers involve:
- Signposting people to the correct areas
- Helping patients to check-in
- Ensuring smooth arrivals and exits
- Respecting social distancing
- Undertaking similar tasks at flu vaccination sites or health centres
Who can volunteer?
The NHS Volunteer Responder Programme is an initiative from NHS England, meaning it’s only open to English residents. If you live in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, you can get more information about volunteering on local government or health service pages.
To volunteer as part of the Volunteer Responder Programme, you will need a smartphone. This because organisers (known as referrers) send alerts and messages to volunteers via a smartphone app. A present, the app is available to anyone with an iPhone 5 and above or an android phone supported by Google. The organisation is also releasing an update to support iPhone 4 users.
Usually, volunteers can specify when they are available. This means that people who work or have other obligations can still participate.
You do not need a DBS check for the role. But, you will need to declare any unspent convictions.
NHS staff vaccine volunteers
If you currently work for the NHS and want to become a COVID-19 vaccine volunteer, you will need to look for information from within your organisation. NHS staff are being hired and deployed locally. There are also some paid roles available to allied health professionals and individuals with first-aid training.
Other ways to help
NHS volunteer responder scheme
The NHS Volunteer Responder Scheme includes a wide range of other roles. You could become one of their community response volunteers who collect supplies for people who are self-isolating. Or, you might consider becoming a check-in-and-chat volunteer, phoning people who are at risk of loneliness. There are also opportunities for volunteer drivers to transport equipment, medication, and patients.
Volunteer in another capacity
Not all volunteering opportunities are suitable for everyone. If you have limited mobility or cannot spare full days, you can still give your time in other ways.
Local community organisations and national charities such as Age UK, NSPCC, and Mind have set up initiatives to help combat the pandemic's effects. This includes fundraising, volunteering over the phone, and joining virtual events.
Perhaps you’re not able to volunteer directly during the COVID-19 crisis. That doesn’t mean you can’t help at all! We regularly publish tips for helping out in your local area on our community pages.
Red Cross training
The Red Cross is offering support to people who plan on volunteering in any capacity during the pandemic. The organisation has released training materials to help keep you safe while you support others. Their full course is available free online, and there is a quiz at the end to test what you’ve learnt.
Remember to seek advice and training when you volunteer and look out for ongoing opportunities as the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out continues.
Supporting each other through the pandemic
Supporting the NHS and St John’s Ambulance during lockdown could make a big difference. If you’re helping out with COVID-19 vaccinations, we’d love to hear about it. Let us know more by commenting on our social media pages.