England star Jordan Henderson spent the day on Monday 21st February meeting staff and volunteers at Yorkshire Ambulance Service, where money he helped raise for NHS Charities Together is funding vital equipment, mental health support for staff and training for hundreds of volunteers, as the service battles its toughest winter ever.
According to Yorkshire Ambulance Service, pressures facing staff in December and January were worse than they were at the peak of the pandemic, with call volumes up by 25% compared to pre-pandemic levels. But charity funding is making an important difference to the support they can provide in the region.
As the national, independent charity caring for the NHS, NHS Charities Together has to date allocated over £7million across ambulance services in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This includes £728,500 to the Yorkshire Ambulance Service Charity to help relieve pressure on the service, which provides emergency healthcare to over five million people.
Funding has provided training and equipment to enable volunteer Community First Responders to attend different types of incidents, with a particular focus on patients who have fallen. This frees up ambulances so they can attend more serious calls, ultimately helping to save more lives.
Additional specialist mental health and wellbeing expertise is also being provided to support staff who are facing increasing pressures, as well as training for managers to enable them to better support their colleagues.
Working with the network of 238 NHS charities, NHS Charities Together provides the extra help needed in every hospital, health board, ambulance, community, and mental health trust across the UK. Thanks to generous support from the British public, NHS Charities Together allocated over £110 million during 2020 alone, with millions more continuing to be allocated during 2021 and 2022.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson was named Charity Champion for NHS Charities Together in January 2021, after he invited professional footballers to support the NHS by donating part of their wages to the charity’s COVID-19 Urgent Appeal.
Jordan, wearing an NHS Charities Together blue heart pin badge in a show of support for NHS staff, said:
“The pressures facing the NHS right now are really challenging, and ambulance services are feeling the brunt of it. On top of all the extra pressures winter brings, they have been continuing to deal with COVID-19 and calls have been at their highest volume ever. Everyone has been working so hard to respond but it’s been tough, and we’ve got to keep showing our love for staff.
“It’s fantastic to see the support that’s been provided here in Yorkshire and the impact NHS charities are having on the frontline. Having more trained volunteers and better equipment means services can help more people and save more lives. When we keep supporting NHS charities we help the health service go further for all of us – but we’re also giving back to everyone in the NHS who works so hard.”
Zain Kazmi is a registered Paramedic based at Bradford Ambulance Station. After two months of working tirelessly at the start of the pandemic in 2020, Zain contracted Covid-19 and developed long Covid, before returning to work on the frontline in November 2021.
Zain, who is married to a doctor, said:
“The last two years have been really difficult. It was tough at the beginning of the pandemic because we knew so little about Covid, and it continued to escalate. When I caught it myself it was scary because I was having symptoms that weren’t at the time associated with the condition, like loss of taste and smell, fatigue and severe headaches. Ultimately, I was hospitalised and had to take time off work for nine months, which was hard because my instinct is to help others and I knew how busy my colleagues were.
“When I returned to work full-time the Trust was experiencing winter pressures like never before and call volume was unprecedented, with the situation made worse by staff sickness. Pre-Covid, most of the respiratory-related illnesses predominantly affected the older population, but it became more widespread among all ages and it was increasingly hard to keep up with demand. It’s not been an easy ride, but we are starting to come out of the other side and that’s a good feeling.”
Ellie Orton OBE, CEO of NHS Charities Together, said:
“Like all NHS staff and volunteers, the staff at Yorkshire Ambulance Service have worked incredibly hard during the past two years. Long shifts, having to isolate from loved ones, and coping with the loss of colleagues and huge numbers of patients all adds up, and we are in awe of their dedication.
“Donations to NHS Charities Together have been able to fund vital initiatives to help the service go further. But pressure is higher than ever and more support is needed. We’re so grateful to Jordan for speaking out on this issue – by getting behind the NHS we can help its long-term recovery, and achieve better health and care for us all.”
Nick Smith, Executive Director of Operations at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust said:
“Generosity from the public throughout the pandemic has made a huge difference to support our staff, volunteers and patients during what continues to be a really challenging period. Our YAS Charity has worked hard to distribute the COVID-19 Urgent Appeal funding and we were delighted to welcome Jordan today so he could hear about its impact.
“Like all other ambulance services across the country, we have been experiencing high demand for our services and this has had a significant effect on our frontline operations. We have been working hard to offset these pressures by recruiting more staff, having additional ambulances and focusing on initiatives to support the health and wellbeing of our staff and volunteers, and the funding from NHS Charities Together has been a significant help.”