In this blog we hear from, Craig Scott - Trustee at a local charity who have been fundamental in our pandemic response.
BERT (Brockham Emergency Response Team) is an award-winning, community support charity based in the picturesque village of Brockham in Surrey. Like many others we have re-purposed ourselves to support needs arising from the pandemic. Back in March 2020 they held an emergency meeting to prepare for the imminent lockdown. Within 24 hours the team had designed, printed and hand delivered thousands of leaflets to homes in the village which mobilised a volunteer force of over 200 people.
For obvious reasons, our biggest focus is working closely with Brockwood Medical Practice to supply volunteers to help marshal patients at their Covid vaccination clinics.
In January and February:
- there have been 14 vaccination clinics,
- over 48 days,
- in 2 locations,
- supported by a team of 90 volunteers,
- of whom 83 have done at least one shift,
- across a total of 40 shifts,
- organised by 5 Volunteer Coordinators,
- who have initiated dozens and dozens of emails, texts and phone calls,
- resulting in roughly 180 appearances by a volunteer,
- with the lowest known temperature volunteers endured outdoors being -5°C,
- using 4 new red lightsabre-styled traffic wands,
- leading to more Darth Vader impressions than we can count,
- and 3 new road signs to point out that parking is free for a coronavirus vaccination,
- achieving an AMAZING total of more than 3,350 of our community vaccinated so far,
- and generating many thousands of grateful thank you messages,
- helping Brockwood Medical Practice to be identified as one of the top four performing vaccination clinics in the whole of Surrey.
Fortunately, BERT had existing communication channels to ask for volunteers and we got a remarkable response. The team has now become so efficient at marshalling people into and out of the clinics that one patient was guided into and out of the surgery before he had had his vaccination. He said he didn’t feel a thing! Thankfully he saw the funny side and the team quickly got him his first vaccination. Volunteers have also been trained to help register patients on arrival and will shortly be helping to book second appointments. All relieving staff of workload and enabling them to focus on frontline care.
The standout feature of the interactions between staff, clinicians, volunteers and patients is how we’ve come together to help each other. The humanity. And humanity, at its best, connects us. Nobody asked the volunteers to be cheerful, welcoming, chatty and kind-hearted but they have been. Reducing anxiety and making a difficult experience, for some patients, less so.
One patient said, “I recently had my covid vaccination [and] was amazed at how well organised and professional your members were. Not only did they make it a well organised visit, they also showed a great deal of compassion in the work they were doing. It really lifted the mood in the queue and waiting room on what would have otherwise been a mundane and potentially stressful occasion for some. It simply would not have been possible to deliver the vaccine to so many in the area without your help and smiles.”
Despite wearing facemasks, smiles can still be seen.
And, of course, there have been some very moving experiences such as the volunteer who arrived at 9am for her allocated shift. She shared that her husband had died the previous evening less than 12 hours before her shift. While we assured her she didn’t need to volunteer that day, she insisted on turning up and didn’t want to let anyone down. It was very humbling to then watch her helping others whilst she had just suffered such a recent, shattering personal loss.
Many of our volunteers have reported how much they enjoy helping. For those of us who are not medically trained but are desperate to contribute, it brings a great sense of purpose. Of doing something useful. By its very nature attending a vaccination clinic is a positive experience. One elderly patient said that it had been the most sociable thing she had done in nearly a year and enjoyed it so much she wanted to go around again. The volunteers have repeatedly asked for more shifts as they’ve found it so rewarding. It’s fair to say that for some of them they don’t feel fully dressed anymore unless they are wearing a high vis tabard.
By working closely with the admin staff and clinical teams the volunteers have had an unusual behind-the-scenes look at what the NHS is delivering. It is remarkable to see the commitment and professionalism of all the staff at Brockwood Medical Practice. Although they continually thank us for our support it is us who feel thankful.
BERT is a registered charity formed in 2014 after significant flooding occurred throughout Brockham Village. The charity works primarily to mitigate against future flooding but has evolved to deliver other helpful local initiatives.
BERT can be found at: