Volunteering and community spirit to respond to COVID-19

Darren Hughes

Volunteering and community spirit have always been at the heart of our society in Wales. The Coronavirus pandemic has seen people come forward to help the health and care service in unprecedented numbers.

Without this vital support during this crisis, the health and care sector would have struggled to cope with the level of demand, not just from the direct health consequences the virus poses, but also in delivering medicines and supporting  vulnerable people.

NHS organisations across Wales are incredibly grateful to the public, who have not only stuck to the official guidance around social distancing but also rallied together to help us come through the peak of the pandemic.

This volunteering week, the NHS has celebrated the helping hand offered by people in their communities  who have stood up during our time of need.

In Gwent, the Gwent Police Cadets have been writing letters to their elderly ‘friends’ in hospital during the pandemic, in lieu of being able to visit.

Similarly, young people from Newport Youth Justice Service have been sending handmade cards and friendship bracelets to care home residents, and hope to visit them once safe to do so in the future.

The Welsh Ambulance Service have also had an influx of support through an army of Community First Responders and volunteers. Some 286 responders have been helping in North Wales, with a further 800 in South West Wales.

Volunteers in Cardiff are keeping patients spirits high by keeping the hospital radio up and running from home.

In Powys, the strong links the Health Board already had established with the Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations has meant “Community Connectors” can continue to help prevent loneliness and social isolation within rural communities.

These are just some of the examples across Wales of people who are going the extra mile to ensure their communities remain resilient and looked after during a difficult time for everyone.

It cannot be underestimated the impact this mammoth effort has had on the health and wellbeing of those who have the greatest need and who are vulnerable.

Together the healthcare service and the public are ensuring people with non-covid related health and wellbeing issues are kept healthy, independent, and as close to home as possible.

While some of these services may look a little different, particularly due to social distancing, there are many new services, such as people delivering prescriptions and food to those who are shielding, which are making a huge difference to the lives of people in Wales.

For many people, at the start of this pandemic, would have been wondering how they were going to maintain their health and wellbeing, including mental health, the people of Wales have provided significant support.

Everyone within the Welsh NHS and the Welsh NHS Confederation would like to say a big thank you to all those volunteers helping out our health and care service and our communities.

Diolch yn fawr iawn #volunteersweek

Darren Hughes is the Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation

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