Dozens of specially trained St John Ambulance volunteers have been helping at the emergency department of Chesterfield Royal hospital, giving vital support in the fight against COVID-19. 

Their work, described by frontline NHS staff as “an absolute credit to St John”, is part of a raft of support services, amounting to 1,200 hours a day, being provided by the health and first aid charity to the NHS and communities across the country since the outbreak of the virus. 

In April the volunteers, all qualified first aiders and advanced first aiders, received additional training from St John and the hospital in how to care for patients during the pandemic. This enabled them to carry out activities such as taking patient observations and helping them with eating, drinking and hygiene in both the Covid and non-Covid emergency zones of the hospital.

“A new relationship”

Claire Lambie is the Royal’s Head of Operations, she said: “This is one of the really positive things to come out of Covid-19. It has allowed us to build a new relationship with St John Ambulance that we probably hadn’t considered before. 

“The team of volunteers have been extremely well received by the emergency department consultants, nurses, patients – everybody they have come into contact with.  

“The training and experience they have with St John means they have the skillset to deal with people and support them when they are feeling vulnerable. They are not here to take on roles that trained staff do, but the skill-base they come with equips them well to support us. 

“They are an absolute credit to St John. Anything they are asked to do, they do. They are professional, courteous and really lovely with people.”

“Helping the Nurses”  

Lead volunteer Marc Pauselli, 36, described his experience assisting patients at the Royal, including those recovering from COVID-19: “The most rewarding thing about this work is helping people, seeing them walk out of the hospital and also helping the nurses who are absolutely run off their feet.” 

Since April 1, specialist COVID-19 training has been given to more than 1,600 St John volunteers as well as furloughed staff from airlines and holiday companies such as British Airways and TUI. 

Delivering more than 100,000 hours of service to the community so far, they have helped at nearly 50 hospitals across England, provided ambulance crews at 31 hubs and are at the heart of dozens of essential community projects such as caring for homeless people, transporting family doctors, supporting cancer patients and assisting with blood donations.

The charity plans to continue this support but is facing serious financial pressures following the temporary closure of its training arm and other social enterprises that normally provide income. An emergency fundraising appeal has been launched to raise more than £6 million. For more information, visit www.sja.org.uk/savelives