Cumbria Crack

Meet and greet volunteers hand out face masks to visitors at NCIC Trust sites

Mel Hartley

Wearing a face covering in North Cumbria Integrated Care Foundation Trust’s hospitals and clinical settings has been mandatory for some time.

Meet and greeters at NCIC sites have been on hand to make sure people are wearing masks and sanitising their hands when they enter Trust premises.

At the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, Pip Bellsham and Mel Hartley have been handing out face masks to patients, visitors and staff.

Pip, who has been a volunteer since April, said: “I enjoy helping people – and putting people at ease. It’s never nice coming to hospital. I try and point them in the right direction when they ask questions.

“Most of the public are happy to wear masks – or if not – happy to understand the need.

Mel became a volunteer in June.

She said: “Handing masks out to people has been absolutely fine, there have been no issues. People’s reactions around masks are fine.”

On volunteering in general, Mel said: “I enjoy feeling like I am giving something back to the NHS no matter how little. It’s also good for building up my confidence and experience as I have been out of work many years having my children and would like to get into paid work eventually and ideally something within the NHS/care sector.

At the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven, Mark Whalley has been busy working as a volunteer in different departments. He was on standby for the recovery centres and was appointed to the Salute the NHS team.

He said: “After spending seven weeks doing the food deliveries, I have now taken on the role of Covid welcomer at the entrances to WCH.

“The staff and patients have taken the mandatory mask wearing in their stride and are polite and courteous when challenged.

“Ninety per cent of patients arriving at the hospital are prepared with their own face coverings and the rest are fully open to a little bit of advice as to how to wear them safely.

“The past 10 weeks have been a pleasure to help out in a small way, after spending the last nearly 30 year in the nuclear industry volunteering has given me a great insight into how another large scale operation work and has been very refreshing to learn new things.”

Volunteer Joseph (Tom) Fisher said: “Reminding people to wear a face mask and sanitise is ok the vast majority do it anyway and the ones who forget quickly thank you for reminding them.

“It is also rewarding to help patients to find the departments for their appointments.

“All the people I have dealt with have been very polite and thankful for your help.”

Julie Riley, who has been a volunteer since April 5, said: “I love meet and greet as 99% of people are very nice and receptive to help and assistance.

“We are also undertaking small tasks like wiping the wheel chairs with disinfectant spray between patients and escorting patients to unfamiliar wards and to their appointments.

“My lead, Joe Dean, is wonderful and helping me get my direction.”

At Workington Community Hospital, volunteers Jeronime Palmer and Carole Woodman have been helping to hand out masks.

Jeronime said: “I’m enjoying the role very much and folk really appreciate why they are being asked to sanitise and wear a mask.

“At Workington it is lovely to meet the same people every when they come in for GP appointments or to pick up prescriptions.

“I quite often get the chance to chat to some lovely folk while they’re waiting for the porter to take them to their appointment or as they wait for their taxi or lift home.

“Everyone is really friendly, from the building manager, GP’s, pharmacists, cafe staff, porters and nursing staff.

Carole said: “I enjoy being helpful, freeing up staff to do their normal work.

“Most people understand they need a mask. It can be a little difficult when people are infirm and struggle to put it on as it needs to be put on in the right way.

“The response is generally positive though and people are happy to have someone point out what to do. Many people are already coming prepared and understand the need.”

Volunteer Jim King said: “I’ve had no complaints and handing out the masks is working well. Most people are grateful for the reminder.”

Anna Stabler, Executive Chief Nurse at NCIC, said: “Having someone at the front door who is able to hand out masks to those people who may need them is such an important role in making our patients feel a little more at ease and reassured at the measures in place.  I’m so grateful to the role of our volunteers, they work in collaboration with our staff and are an asset to the Trust.”

Social distancing is also in force across all Trust sites. Visitors and staff must sanitise their hands when entering and leaving buildings and staff in some areas are wearing full PPE.

Wearing a face mask or face covering is set to become mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England from Friday, July 24.

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