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King's staff dedicate their time and talents to support the NHS

From driving ambulances to sewing scrubs, staff from across King’s have come forward to support the response to COVID-19 and give back to the NHS.

King’s has been at the forefront of the efforts to tackle COVID-19, from opening a testing centre to relieve the burden on the NHS to ensuring patients receive the best possible care. The King’s community has also assisted the NHS in more unexpected ways, with staff using their time and creative skills to make a difference during the pandemic.

Politics lecturer by day, ambulance driver by night

For Dr Rod Dacombe, Senior Lecturer in Politics in the Department of Political Economy, COVID-19 was ‘a crisis that needed responding to.’ For the last 13 years, Rod has spent his spare time serving his rural community with the local Fire Service. In response to the pandemic, the local ambulance service requested the Fire Service to provide medically trained emergency response drivers to support their crew. Paired with a paramedic, Rod was soon on the road, driving to emergency calls for the South Central Ambulance Service in his spare time.

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‘It’s been really interesting, really worthwhile, and very different from what I’d expected’, Rod explains. ‘It is relentless. Usually we’ll work through an entire shift and it will be non-stop the whole time.’

Working alongside NHS colleagues has deepened Rod’s appreciation for the health service. ‘I have massive admiration for the paramedics’, he says, modestly. ‘I’m happy to make any contribution that I can, but it’s nothing compared to the work that they do.’

Joining a national sewing effort

Members of the King’s community have also been putting their creative skills to good use, transforming hobbies into gestures that make life easier for healthcare workers.

Bryony Frost, Head of Research Operations in the Research Management and Innovation Directorate, dusted off her sewing machine to make scrubs for healthcare workers.

NHS staff who would not usually wear scrubs are choosing to wear them during COVID-19 to reduce the risk of contamination. This has put pressure on the supply chain, with manufacturers unable to keep up with demand.

An army of volunteers have come forward to fill the gap by sewing scrubs and distributing them to GP surgeries, hospitals and other healthcare institutions across the UK. Fabric is donated by the community or sourced from professional suppliers through fundraising.

Bryony joined her local scrub-making group and has made five sets of scrubs as well as 50 washable bags, which reduce the infection risk by keeping used scrubs separate. She has enjoyed adding personal touches to the scrubs, for example by embroidering rainbows or unique labels.

As well as giving back to her community, sewing scrubs has enabled Bryony to develop new skills. ‘I’ve never made a pair of trousers before, but now I know how to put in trouser pockets and do elasticated waistbands’, she explains.

Part of Bryony’s motivation to join the scrub effort was contributing to something larger. ‘If someone says to you in ten years’ time when they are learning about it at school, “what did you do?”, I don’t really want to say, “I did a lot of Teams calls”’, she says. ‘Doing this makes you feel a bit more involved.’

Holly Knower, Head of Ventures at the King’s Entrepreneurship Institute, has also drawn on her sewing skills by making fabric headbands for nurses and midwifes in the local NHS Trust in South East London.

The headbands make wearing PPE more bearable over long shifts, as surgical masks can be attached to the comfortable fabric using buttons.

Headbands are included in a welcome pack given to recently qualified frontline workers in the Trust, who, like many King’s students, have joined the health service sooner than they expected. It is hoped that these personal touches make them feel like a valued member of the team, as well as providing appropriate protection.

At a time when our NHS are working so hard in such trying and difficult circumstances, it was a pleasure to be able provide support, albeit on a micro level.– Holly Knower, Head of Ventures, King’s Entrepreneurship Institute

Taking time to check in

Erk Gunce, a project intern with the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion team, answered the call for NHS volunteers, and now dedicates time as a ‘Check-in and Chat’ volunteer, phoning people who may be isolated, lonely or vulnerable.

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The phone calls are an opportunity to have a friendly conversation and reduce feelings of loneliness amongst more vulnerable individuals. Erk wanted to volunteer to improve his active listening and wellbeing support skills. He was also keen on doing his bit to support the NHS in tackling this crisis.

After receiving a training pack, Erk was ready to respond to calls. He says he is really enjoying the experience so far and is feeling the benefit of helping those in need. ‘Telephoning lonely people is an act of kindness, very much in line with the “kindness” theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week’, he explains.

King’s was founded in 1829 on the ambition to serve society. For Rod Dacombe, the values of the King’s community encouraged him to dedicate his time and energy for the local ambulance service.

If King’s is anything, it’s a group of people who are interested in making the world a better place based on the skills that they’ve got. I don’t think I would be driving ambulances if I hadn’t spent most of my professional life in this environment. – Dr Rod Dacombe, Senior Lecturer in Politics, Department of Political Economy

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, #ContinuingToServe is our university-wide approach to bringing together, strengthening and celebrating the many ways in which King’s people are making a difference within their communities, wherever they may be.

Visit the #ContinuingToServe webpage to let us know how you can help or discover existing projects that need support.

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