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To celebrate Volunteers’ Week, Gary Burgess tells us more about the different roles he has taken on as a volunteer within Northumbria Healthcare

Thursday, 03 June, 2021
To celebrate Volunteers’ Week, Gary Burgess tells us more about the different roles he has taken on as a volunteer within Northumbria Healthcare

My name is Gary Burgess and I’m a volunteer here at Northumbria Healthcare. I began volunteering for the NHS in April 2020 when the call was first put out for people to help out due to the impact of Covid-19. I’ll be honest and say volunteering is not something I had ever thought about doing but I had taken early retirement from teaching in 2019 to seek new adventures and experiences in life, so, by some strange twist of fate this new opportunity was presented to me. It was one of those situations where I thought to myself ‘I just can’t sit back and do nothing, I’ve got to muck in and help out somehow’.


My first volunteering role was with Digital Services based at Cobalt Business Park. The team did all of the clever technical stuff and I helped out by delivering mobile phones and computer equipment throughout Northumberland and North Tyneside. It was great to deliver vital equipment to so many NHS staff in so many different locations, all of which would help the communication process, especially for those working from home. It was really quite eye-opening to see what went on behind the scenes and how important those roles were.


In June 2020 I left my position with the thought that we were easing out of the Covid-19 crisis. However, in January this year I returned as a volunteer to help out in the vaccination hubs at The Northumbria Hospital, Wansbeck General Hospital and North Tyneside General Hospital doing marshalling duties. The unmissable purple volunteer t-shirt hadn’t finished its tour of duty just yet! I experienced first-hand what being in the thick of the action within the NHS was like and I absolutely loved it.


‘Manic Thursday’ at Wansbeck General Hospital is a day I will never forget – there were 800 people to vaccinate in one day. Those who were there will certainly remember it but what stands out to me is not just the professionalism of the staff, which I expected to be the case anyway, but the humour that would surface again and again – a light hearted moment stolen here and there, the camaraderie, how amiable staff were even under pressure and the support and care given to every patient.


On all of those days in the vaccination hubs I heard so much appreciation from so many people which was a tribute in itself to the staff working in those hubs, and the positive effect their work had on others. I witnessed this first hand and soaked it up every time.


Now my role as a volunteer has taken me to helping out the Bike4Health staff who visit different hospital sites to spread the word about the benefits of cycling to work and recreationally, as well as providing a bike servicing facility for staff.


I never would have imagined I’d spend time in my life being an NHS Volunteer. But it’s been time well spent and yes, very rewarding too.