Museum staff support St John Ambulance’s Covid-19 response

Museum of the Order of St John Rachel Job, collections and engagement assistant

Following the temporary closure of the Museum in mid-March, some Museum staff were redeployed into other roles in order to help St John Ambulance support the NHS in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Museum assistant Rachel Job went to work at the London and South Regional Operations Coordination Cell (or ROCC for short). Here she tells us a bit about her experience. 

A ROCC was set up for each region of St John Ambulance in England to coordinate volunteers who wanted to help in hospitals or on ambulances. The London and South Region ROCC was housed in Edwina Mountbatten House, which is also an ambulance hub. The ROCC was staffed largely by volunteers, who were supported by staff from St John Ambulance’s Event Planning and Delivery team. You may have spotted two of the volunteers who featured in the BBC’s rendition of ‘We’ll meet again’ to mark VE Day in May. 

Photograph of people standing in a car park holding signs that together read "We volunteer for you. Please stay home for us."
Volunteers and staff at Mountbatten House send out a message to the public on social media.

Three of us were redeployed from the Museum: me, Justin (museum office assistant), and Ameeta (client relationships executive). When we arrived at Edwina Mountbatten House for the first time, we knew lots about the Order of St John, the history of St John Ambulance and the historic buildingsbut much less about St John’s operations on the ground today. We had lots to learn!  

Photograph showing three people standing with bikes under St John's Gate
All three of us cycled to work in order to avoid public transport. Here we are stopping by at St John’s Gate on the way home one day.

We were each given distinct role to become specialist in over the following months. For me this was hospital administration. Essentially my job was to book volunteers onto shifts at hospitals, making sure that they had completed all the correct training first. The first hospital in London and South Region that we deployed volunteers to was Lewisham Hospital. You may have seen Stacey Dooley’s BBC documentary Lockdown Heroes, which followed one of the volunteers who went there. St John Ambulance is now supporting dozens of hospitals in London and South Region, as well as deploying volunteers to support at blood donor sessions and to do Covid-19 swab testing from mobile treatment centres 

For me it has been humbling to see the dedication of many volunteers who give so much time and energy to St John. I hadn’t fully appreciated before just how much responsibility volunteers take on and what a wide variety of roles they carry out. For example, for each hospital, a volunteer hospital lead was appointed to liaise between the NHS Hospital Trust and the volunteers who were going there. 

Volunteers continue to support in hospitals, as well as on ambulances, but the ROCC has been stood down as this work has now been integrated into St John Ambulance’s businessasusual structure. I return to the Museum having learnt a huge amount about what St John does on the ground today, and having made connections, and friends, with staff and volunteers in other parts of the organisation. 

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