The Hampshire people who are part of the 750,000-strong NHS volunteer army

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MORE THAN 750,000 people have signed up to volunteer with the NHS after a plea to help the 1.5 million people who have been asked to shield themselves from coronavirus.

The initial call-out asked for 250,000 NHS Volunteer Responders but the Royal Voluntary Service, which is helping to coordinate the response, said it has been ‘absolutely overwhelmed’ after the goal was reached three times over in the week since the appeal was announced.

Among those ready to help transport patients and equipment, collect medication and shopping for those self-isolating and phone those at risk of loneliness is Lesley Weatherson, who is hoping her job as a sign language interpreter and lipspeaker and background as a nurse and midwife to good use.

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The 52-year-old from Gosport said: ‘When I saw the appeal I thought that I could put my skills to good use and help my community.

NHS Volunteers

from top left, clockwise, Stella Pace, Lesley Weatherson, Callum Warner and Tom CotterillNHS Volunteers

from top left, clockwise, Stella Pace, Lesley Weatherson, Callum Warner and Tom Cotterill
NHS Volunteers from top left, clockwise, Stella Pace, Lesley Weatherson, Callum Warner and Tom Cotterill | Other 3rd Party

‘I think people want to help each other out because we feel compassion for other human beings and if everyone does their little bit then that creates a big wave.’

GPs, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, NHS 111 advisers and social care staff will all be able to request help for their at-risk patients via a call centre run by the RVS, who will match people who need help with volunteers who live near to them.

Some charities will also be able to refer people to the service.

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Callum Warner from Waterlooville signed up through the GoodSam app after the link was shared in a work social group.

The 23-year-old financial advisor, currently working from home, said: ‘I think everyone can do their bit in this situation and if everyone did pull their weight where they could then this would be over quicker.

‘Although I am still working from home, I do have time where I can help and I don’t think at the moment there are many reasons people shouldn’t help.

‘Unless you are ill, care for someone or are already helping with a local group, then you should sign up.’

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Callum has had an email back from the NHS and is currently waiting for his documents to be checked before he can start volunteering.

He added: ‘I don’t believe in karma but I think if you do good things for others, that gets remembered and people will be there for you when you need it.’

Catherine Johnstone, RVS chief executive, said: ‘On Tuesday evening, Royal Voluntary Service readied itself to launch the biggest call-out for volunteers in England since the Second World War.

‘Less than 24 hours later, we had hit our target of 250,000 sign-ups and now that number is at 750,000.

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‘We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the response and cannot thank the public enough. As history shows, it is often in times of crisis that we pull together and become our best selves.’

Volunteering has now been paused while the team focuses on getting the first batch of responders up and running.

Ms Johnstone added: ‘We fully expect that more volunteers will be required, and we will be issuing an update on areas of the country and roles that we still need to fill as soon as we can.’

The News’s defence correspondent Tom Cotterill has put his name forward to help.

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The 30-year-old, who lives in Hilsea, said: ‘We all have to play our part in this crisis. Those who are fit and healthy need to step up and support the more vulnerable in the community. That’s what will get us through this disaster.’

He added: ‘Knowing I’m doing something to help - no matter how small - feels amazing.’

Mum-of-two Stella Pace is also waiting for the call up after applying.

The 56-year-old from Botley added: ‘When I applied the number was up to 400,000 which I thought was amazing and now to see 750,000 people want to volunteer is really amazing.

‘I think it has and will bring communities closer.’

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