St John Ambulance volunteers join NHS response to coronavirus crisis

Tom Willis, of St John Ambulance in Lowestoft, is assisting both the East of England Ambulance Servi

Tom Willis, of St John Ambulance in Lowestoft, is assisting both the East of England Ambulance Service Trust and London Ambulance Service with clearing 999 calls as part of his role as an Emergency Ambulance Crew member. Picture: St John Ambulance - Credit: Archant

St John Ambulance volunteers have been busy supporting the NHS and providing a vital service amid the continuing coronavirus crisis.

Recently Waveney MP Peter Aldous highlighted the role that the voluntary sector – in particular St John Ambulance – can play in support of the NHS as part of the UK’s efforts against the pandemic.

And numerous volunteers from the St John Ambulance Lowestoft Unit have been providing operational responses, as they work closely with NHS England and the National Ambulance Strategic Advisor in supporting the NHS during this outbreak.

Among them is emergency ambulance crew member Tom Willis, from Lowestoft.

The 23-year-old, who was born in Edmonton in the London Borough of Enfield but has lived in Carlton Colville for 20 years, has been back in the capital recently assisting London Ambulance Service.

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Having spent five years working with St John, Mr Willis admitted he enjoys helping people.

“It’s what I have been training to do,” he said.

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“It’s very rewarding personally knowing that my colleagues and I are making a difference to people’s lives when they most need it.

“Currently I am assisting both the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) and London Ambulance Service (LAS) with clearing 999 calls as part of my role as an Emergency Ambulance Crew member.

“I enjoy doing what I do and am both a volunteer for and an employee of St John Ambulance.

“In my paid role I am a driving instructor for those training to drive emergency vehicles.

“We need ambulance crews to support the NHS with emergency work at the moment and that’s what I’m here for.”

Last month, while providing a voluntary crew in supporting EEAST in Norwich as part of the national response by St John Ambulance, they answered a call for help in London.

On his Twitter page @TW10FLY Mr Willis Tweeted: “LAS were in a difficult position and had to request assistance due to the high demand of calls, mostly related to Covid-19.

“We attended a number of patients in London, all had competitive characteristics for the virus.

“It’s been an eye opening experience – I don’t think we (as a society) really appreciate the risks posed by this disease until we deal with it.”

Mr Willis added: “The main challenge has been explaining to people why they need to self-isolate.

“If you are told to stay at home, please do stay at home and help the NHS and emergency workers while they try to deal with the current crisis.

“Please heed government advice and stay at home. Treat your symptoms at home, but call 111 if you need to.”

St John role highlighted

Speaking in the House of Commons recently, Waveney MP Peter Aldous backed the Coronavirus Bill as he highlighted the role of St John Ambulance in supporting the NHS.

He said: “In order to beat this virus, our statutory services need all the help and support possible from the voluntary sector.

“As a former member of the St John Ambulance Suffolk county board, I would like to highlight the work that St John can do working alongside the NHS.

“There are 15,000 St John volunteers, of whom 8,500 are clinically trained.

“They can provide ambulances, first aiders in emergency departments and support for the homeless with outreach clinics.

“However, to make full use of their services, St John volunteers need access to paid leave, ready access to emergency volunteering certificates, as required by schedule 6 to the Bill, and inclusion within the definition of key workers so that the children of St John volunteers can attend school.”

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