United Kingdom

Coronavirus UK: 750,000 NHS volunteers start work today

An army of 750,000 volunteers are reporting for duty for the first time today to help the NHS in its fight against coronavirus. 

The NHS Volunteer Service received three times the amount of applications they had hoped for in the largest call for volunteers since the Second World War. 

Applications had to be halted while officials ran checks on the three quarters of a million Britons who signed up to help.

But today they were given their first jobs, which range from calling the elderly and vulnerable in isolation to driving patients to hospital. 

Volunteers can 'report for duty' to say they are available to help on the GoodSAM app, which alerts them when there is a job to do in their area. 

Many took proudly to social media to say they are ready for their first tasks. 

Gary Millard, from Bristol, announced he was prepared for his shift with a picture of himself wearing a towel as a cape and the caption: 'I am ready to go whenever they call on me to do whatever I can do to help our fantastic NHS heroes.' 

Gary Millard, from Bristol, is among 750,000 NHS volunteers starting on Tuesday. Today he donned a towel as a cape and a pair of extra underpants to announce he is 'ready for action' 

Paul Milburn is among the 750,000 volunteers that started work today. He is delivering testing kits near his home 

Amy from Dudley was among the first to announce she was starting as a volunteer on Twitter this morning

Pictured: Amy from Dudley (left) and Sarah Louise (right) from the West Midlands have both signed up and started doing their bit today 

A woman called Sarah Louise said it was 'time to do her bit' by helping out as a NHS volunteer

A woman called Amy from Dudley tweeted: 'I am officially an NHS volunteer responder. There are loads of people near me doing the same as well! Catch me collecting prescriptions and checking on the elderly.' 

Paul Milburn, from Newcastle, started his first day as a volunteer by delivering coronavirus testing kits to people across the city.  

A teacher called Sarah Louise from Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire has signed up to ring elderly people self-isolating because it is 'time to do her bit'. 

The 29-year-old told MailOnline: 'I signed up because I'm fit and healthy myself and I was absolutely devastated when the schools closed meaning I couldn't do 'my bit' for the community, other than the odd days to support key worker children. 

'Sitting at home feels wrong when I could be of so much help. My Nan was in palliative care last year and the thought of elderly/vulnerable having no one to talk to or no one to help get the odd essentials is heartbreaking!' 

Daniel Heath, 29, from Haverhill near Cambridge, was partly inspired to sign up to the volunteering effort by his loved ones who work on the NHS frontline.

Mr Heath has already begun helping out in his area and plans to start taking selfies so that in years to come he can look back on the unprecedented events of 2020.

He said: 'I wanted to give something back and help the country and the people as much as possible through this pandemic.

'I wanted to be one of those that gets out and helps people that are in need, the older people that can't get out and have to isolate because they're at risk.

'I just wanted to be part of that team that helps to get everyone through this pandemic.'

Mr Heath, whose mother and sister work for the NHS on COVID-19 wards, has already helped an elderly couple by collecting their prescription from a pharmacy.

He said he left their essentials in a box at their door, knocked, and walked back so that he was a safe distance away. 

Mr Heath, whose partner is a cardio physiologist in the NHS, said: 'It felt really good to do it, because you've not just given something back, you've helped people that can't get out to get their own medication.' 

Daniel Health (pictured) is another of the 750,000 volunteers who started today 

Mr Heath added: 'I really want to just give back. All the years that I've been helped with stuff it's about time that I gave back a bit, and it's going to be nice to help these people.

'And I do want the memento, because then you can look back on it and go 'Do you remember in 2020 when I helped the 110 people with their daily needs because they couldn't go out because they were locked in? It will be nice to look back and share that with people.' 

He said he cannot be furloughed as he started the job after the cut-off date of February 28.

'I've got all this free time where I'm not working. I might as well be doing something that's benefiting everyone and helping to slow down the spread of this virus,' he said.

Lee Robinson said on Twitter: 'I'm up and running as an NHS Volunteer Responder, ready to collect and deliver medication and essentials to vulnerable members of my local community.' 

A man called Richard shared a screen shot of his GoodSAM app and said: 'I am a local responder for the sick, elderly and vulnerable or self-isolating during the covid 19 crisis woohoo!

'I'm part of the 750,000 strong volunteer force in the UK working alongside the NHS Government and council teams to help and assist people in our local communities.' 

While Darren Mason posted: 'My first day as a NHS volunteer responder #NHS #NotAllHeroesWearCapes #DoingMyPart.' 

Many of the 750,000 NHS volunteers took proudly to social media to say they are ready for their first tasks today 

Celebrities Rita Ora and Love Island star Alexandra Crane have also signed up to help out.

Rita's mother Vera Sahatciu, 55, has returned to her job as a psychiatrist to help the NHS with those struggling mentally during the pandemic. The 29-year-old's singer Elena, 31, has also offered to volunteer.  

Due to the huge response, NHS officials claim the volunteer force will come to the aid of 2.5million at-risk people in the coming weeks.  

Volunteers will be delivering medicines from pharmacies, driving patients to appointments, bringing them home from hospital, making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home, and transporting medical supplies and equipment for the NHS.

Health professionals, pharmacists and local authorities can upload requests for help on the NHS Volunteer Responders referrer's portal, and volunteers pick the job they want to do that day and close the task once complete. 

The NHS is using the GoodSAM app, which is usually used by regular NHS volunteers. 

Initial tasks will start buzzing on smart phones nationwide today with more expected over the coming weeks as referrals ramp up.   

An example of how the GoodSAM app works to allow people to be connected to vulnerable people in their area 

Volunteers will be delivering medicines from pharmacies, driving patients to appointments, bringing them home from hospital, making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home, and transporting medical supplies and equipment for the NHS

Health professionals (Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust tweet pictured), pharmacists and local authorities can upload requests for help on the NHS Volunteer Responders referrer's portal, and volunteers pick the job they want to do that day and close the task once complete

The Duchess of Cornwall, president of the Royal Voluntary Service, thanked the 750,000 people who have volunteered to help and revealed she is one of them. 

The Duchess, 72, tested negative for coronavirus, but isolated for 14 days after her husband Charles contracted the Covid-19 illness.

Camilla said: 'As the proud president of the Royal Voluntary Service, I wanted to send my warmest thanks to all the NHS Volunteer Responders who have come forward in unprecedented numbers to offer help to the NHS.

'Royal Voluntary Service has been working with the NHS to recruit people in England who can assist those who are most in need of practical and emotional support at this time.

'Thankfully, the charity has a long and remarkable history of bringing willing volunteers together with the isolated and lonely. That experience is needed more than ever in these challenging times.

'And today many more NHS Volunteer Responders will get in touch with the people they have so kindly offered to help.

Celebrities Rita Ora (pictured with her mother Vera Sahatciu who has returned to work as a psychiatrist with the NHS) and Love Island star Alexandra Crane have also signed up 

Rita's mother Vera Sahatciu, 55, has returned to her previous role in a bid to help those struggling with their mental health during these difficult times

'Everyone working in the NHS is under unimaginable pressure day and night in this crisis.

'I feel sure that the presence of so many wonderful volunteers will encourage, as well as support, them. I salute each one of you - and thank you with all my heart.'

NHS England said Camilla made a 'check in and chat' call with Doris Winfield, 85, from Rickmansworth, who has spent the last two weeks self-isolating.

While Ms Winfield has three daughters who she regularly speaks to, she lives alone and misses her friends and the active social life she used to enjoy.

She said the chat with Camilla 'meant the world to me', adding: 'I've been incredibly lonely over the last couple of weeks and it was wonderful to talk to her.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, has signed up as a volunteer after her own coronavirus scare. She is checking in on Doris Winfield, 85, from Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire

'We talked about life in isolation and shared hobbies, she was very interested in my family and how I was coping without them. It's really cheered me up.'

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: 'The number of people who came forward to help some of the most vulnerable in their communities is truly extraordinary.

'Today we begin to see the results of these tremendous acts of goodwill from the British public, with volunteers offering support to those who need it most.'

'Tackling this unprecedented coronavirus challenge means all of us to pulling together, so on behalf of the NHS, thank you to everyone who is playing their part.'

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