31 March 2020: The nation’s leading first aid charity is calling for urgent Government action to encourage and enable employers to allow staff to volunteer in the battle against COVID-19.

In evidence presented to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport committee today (March 31), St John Ambulance’s Chief Executive Martin Houghton-Brown highlighted the need for businesses to guarantee paid leave and flexible working arrangements for volunteers.

The call comes as St John devotes its energies to its biggest deployment in peacetime, with up to 15,000 volunteers supporting the NHS and communities across the country, including crewing ambulances, working in casualty departments and supporting nurses at the new Nightingale Hospital in London.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, St John Ambulance has transformed its day-to-day operations to focus on helping tackle the virus. The charity’s social enterprises around event first aid and workplace training have been suspended and St John’s people and resources – including 700 vehicles – are devoted to supporting the NHS.

In his submission to the committee, Mr Houghton-Brown said: “Our entire organisation is now concerned with the planning or delivery of NHS support workstreams.

Martin Houghton-Brown

“St John Ambulance’s command and control operational structure, which is used to deploying our volunteers in huge numbers on challenging and rapid-response necessitating projects, such as providing first aid provision to the London Marathon, is enabling the organisation to be both rigorous and nimble in our deployment now to serve the NHS.”

On a daily basis, St John Ambulance is currently:

  • Providing ambulances and crews daily across England as of April 1, including a leadership presence at the National Ambulance Co-ordination Centre.
  • Providing hundreds of volunteers every day for the Nightingale Hospital, at the Excel Centre in London.
  • Providing teams of Emergency Department volunteers, nationally
  • Planning for future Nightingale facilities.

Mr Houghton-Brown’s evidence was part of an inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on the charity sector, held via video link this afternoon from 2-5pm.

For more information on St John Ambulance’s work, health advice and the charity’s current fundraising appeal visit www.sja.org.uk/COVID-19

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