The Inspire Awards, given by the Royal College of General Practitioners, celebrates the community volunteer work of its members. This year's awards were focused on contributions to mitigating the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Heroes project also collectively received the BMJ Primary Care Award 2021.
To receive the award is an unbelievable feeling and is a culmination of many months of hard work aimed at helping the most vulnerable during the pandemic.– Joshua Bekhor, student at the GKT School of Medical Education
The Heroes Project was created by Elliott Hall Medical Centre in March 2020, following the historic lockdown announcement. The NHS medical practice, located in Harrow, has a large population of elderly patients who had many questions about the pandemic and how they could obtain provisions.
To help the practice reach out to their vulnerable patients, organise drop-offs and provide information and support, they set up the Heroes Project. Eight medical students – from second year to final year – volunteered, including students from King’s, Imperial College, UCL, Edinburgh, and Bulgaria University.
Alongside the eight medical students, 252 volunteers who weren’t vulnerable towards Covid-19 were recruited.
The students served as an important link between the patients, volunteers, and the GPs, helping to co-ordinate and organise tasks for volunteers. They also helped Elliott Hall with many vital tasks, such as co-writing a weekly newsletter that included the latest news around Covid-19 and FAQs, and collectively calling over 1,000 vulnerable patients to offer medical support.
Furthermore, the students acted as a first point of contact for other volunteers and filled in as back-up for reception staff that were forced to self-isolate.
Without these medical students our HEROES project would not have been as extensively far reaching as it was.– RCGP INSPIRE Award Winners 2021 Summary Statement
Volunteers also played a key role, with 181 of them being paired with vulnerable patients. They offered one-to-one support, helping their pair with shopping for food and medication. Volunteers would regularly speak to their pair on the phone to provide social and emotional support.
Joshua reflected on the experience, saying: “The most important thing I learned was that in life there will be situations where one needs to step up and help the community. We have a duty of care to one another, and we should use our relevant skills to contribute in any way that we can.”
Learn more about the HEROEs project here.