Life in lockdown

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everyone's lives: having to adapt to new ways of learning and working, and connecting to loved ones and colleagues virtually. Student Sarina, alumna Belinda and staff member Geeta share their stories.

Sarina in front of bridge at nightCoordinating student volunteers

Sarina Shah (Third year, Modern Languages with Business Management)

Since lockdown began, it's been a bit of a rollercoaster. It was initially really hard not seeing any of my friends or family and adapting to studying online. Sometimes I felt quite unmotivated. I've learned a lot of remote skills through a virtual internship hosted by Careers Network.

I'm really proud of helping to set up the volunteer Community Response Group in Selly Oak, which has helped to connect vulnerable people in our area with volunteers who want to help. Students and staff at the University and local members of the community have delivered more than 1,000 food parcels. We've also raised over £2,000 on GoFundMe to help us buy more food when we've experienced shortages. It's been amazing to see the response to our group and to see the community come together.

Audio described version.

Enabling returning doctors to return to the NHS

Belinda Yeldon (BA Political Science, 2015)

Belinda At the start of COVID-19, NHS England redeployed staff from their business-as-usual positions to respond to the pandemic. I was redeployed from my role as a Policy Manager in the Primary Care Networks Team to lead on programme management for 'The deployment of returning GPs into NHS 111 COVID Clinical Assessment Service (CCAS)'; a service which enables patients most at risk of COVID-19 to be reviewed and triaged appropriately when telephoning NHS 111.

In a matter of hours, I set up the programme task and finish group, meeting twice daily, and identified key actions, with action owners from multiple organisations. As GPs were returning to practice and working virtually from home, it was essential to determine and provide a comprehensive online training package; hosted by Health Education England, and procure IT equipment and software; delivered by NHSX. Over the subsequent days, by working with other government departments, including the Home Office, to ascertain HR checks required, I mapped the onboarding pathway and ensured a well-equipped team was in place at the employing organisation to onboard all returning GPs efficiently and effectively.

Implementing such a high-priority service was undeniably challenging, especially when adapting to working from home whilst receiving hundreds of emails during my 15-hour workday. Being part of one of the most conscientious and dedicated teams I've ever worked with, my housemate making me numerous cups of tea daily and taking my one allowed walk (at midnight most nights) to clear my head unquestionably helped me deliver this programme.

In anticipation of the first wave peak over 1,500 returning GPs were onboarded, who have made over 300,000 patient contacts so far, significantly reducing patient waiting times. I've now returned to focus on Primary Care Network policy prompting me to say a huge 'thank you' to all the returning GPs who delivered, and continue to deliver care, to patients through the CCAS.

Supporting vital servicesGeeta wearing face visor

Geeta Parashar, HR Business and Systems Analyst

The biggest change in lockdown is working from home. It's been difficult to not see my colleagues in person, but to help keep us connected I've become the 'quiz queen' for my team! My job has seen an increase in activity and pressure but I'm proud of how resilient the University staff community has been.

I normally have a long commute, so I've used that time for volunteering. Throughout lockdown, I helped a domestic violence charity and two homeless charities, all of which have recently seen a spike in demand for services. I signed up for the NHS COVID-19 volunteering scheme and worked in a local pharmacy to allow the staff time off. I am part of the International Service Organisation which has, so far, made over 3,500 visors for local hospitals, care homes and a GP surgery in Coventry. Volunteering is something I've always been passionate about and I feel fortunate to be able to do.

Have these amazing stories inspired you to give back? Find out how you can volunteer to help students at Birmingham.