Fire staff volunteer 1,000 hours to support Norfolk's hospitals
- Credit: NNUH
Fitting hospital staff with protective masks and greeting patients as they arrive for their coronavirus vaccine.
These are some of the jobs fire service staff are taking on as part of ongoing support for Norfolk's NHS services.
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) currently has 60 staff available to work in the NHS, including at the three acute Norfolk hospitals and medical centres, and has volunteered more than 1,000 hours of support in a fortnight.
A third of the volunteers began supporting the Norfolk and Norwich University on Monday, in non-clinical roles such as swab testing, fitting of medical masks and administrative support at its vaccination centre.
This is in addition to 30 military technicians supporting the hospital as health care assistants.
Among the volunteers is Glen Roskilly , from the urban search and rescue team at Dereham, who spent his first day helping fit masks for hospital staff working on red wards.
Mr Roskilly is a whole time firefighter and is currently working four days on shift and four days off, using two of his days off to volunteer across the NHS. Last week he was volunteering at the vaccination centre in Bowthorpe.
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The Dereham firefighter said the challenge was to get confident in the sequence of fitting masks.
Mr Roskilly said: "I’m really glad to be here. Usually this fit testing would be carried out by clinical staff, but with us doing it we have been able to free up those clinical staff to do other jobs.”
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Working alongside Mr Roskilly on Monday was on-call firefighter Wayne Jolly.
Mr Jolly, who will work in the vaccination centre on Thursday, added: “We are all well aware of how hard the NHS is working, so I would rather pitch in.”
The pair helped fit masks for staff including Amy Kettle, a staff nurse on Easton Ward, an emergency assessment unit.
She said: “It really is a great help having them doing this work for us. It helps us do the work we need to do on the wards.”
Volunteer Pam Winfield wanted to offer her time due to family members working in the NHS.
She greeted people entering the vaccination centre, taking their temperature and guiding them to where they needed to be.
She said: “My brother works in A&E so I have had an idea of what he is coping with.”
Sprowston firefighter Tim Francis has volunteered after being treated for severe burns on his legs in Colchester.
Mr Francis said: “I am accident prone and have spent quite a bit of time in hospital.
“I saw first-hand just how hard they are all working and how they are struggling. If I can do this small thing to give something back then it is a good thing. I’m not really the sort of person to sit around so I am happy to take some of my days off and keep busy.”
Helping to oversee the first day at the hospital was Roger Mitchell, station manager at Dereham.
He said: “We have lots of people helping out across all four corners of the county. This is incredibly rewarding as it is a real chance for me to make a difference – for me to do my bit.
“It is like fitting in pieces of the puzzle. We obviously make sure our service is safe and all the volunteers are giving up their free time to do this.”
Support has also been provided to the James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn.
NFRS Group Manager Paul Seaman, who is leading the NHS work for the service, said: “Over the last three weeks we have stepped up to the urgent call for help made by our colleagues in the NHS due to the unprecedented demand they faced.
“Our staff is well versed in reacting to emergency situations and over a very short period of time we have been able to mobilise a large group of volunteers to carry out a number of roles within acute hospitals and also the primary care networks.
“As the lead for this work I am humbled and immensely proud of all of the staff involved and we will continue to assist for as long as we are needed.”
NNUH Chief Nurse Professor Nancy Fontaine praised the team for responding to the "call to arms", adding: “This recognises that everyone in the community has a talent that they can offer us in this fight against Covid.”