If 2020 was a year that provided the greatest test for St John people in generations, our continued response to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021 upped the ante and propelled our charity into brand new territory.
Our volunteers and staff were already working in hospitals, on ambulances and supporting community projects, as part of what we called our ‘biggest peacetime deployment’
In 2021, the efforts our teams put in during the first ten months of the pandemic continued but expanded dramatically when they were joined by a whole new wave of vaccination volunteers. By the autumn, our overall Covid response had topped one million hours of volunteer time.
The story of last year is of one jab after another leading us out of the pandemic, but it is also a story of extraordinary resilience that speaks to the strength of St John Ambulance’s heritage and values.
"There can be no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has challenged and changed us all. For St John people - including many people new to our cause - it was an opportunity to sacrifice and serve, from delivering millions of vaccines to relieving the continued pressure on NHS services. As we begin to emerge from this, we find ourselves altered, with deeper relationships with the public and the health service."
Chief Executive, St John Ambulance
On January 11, 2021 the first seven large scale vaccination centres opened, in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Newcastle, Stevenage and Epsom, with St John vaccination volunteers at all of them
Within a month, over 10,000 St John vaccination volunteers were deployed at 50+ centres across the country, and by April almost 27,000 vaccination volunteers were available for deployment.
At the end of the year, they had given almost a million hours of their time across hundreds of locations and dozens of mobile services.
Lucy Aerts - Volunteer vaccinator
“Day one of my vaccination duty felt very much like the first day of school. My uniform was clean, pressed and I was freshly armed with the excellent training provided by St John and ready to go. Nerves were in full force, of course, as we did not know what to expect. Neither was I aware it was the first time a St John person was administering the vaccine. From the moment that first jab was given I felt an immense amount of pride.
All I could think of was my late dad and how proud it would have made him.
It was an incredible and emotional day standing side by side with the NHS and fellow volunteers. It is a day I will never forget, and I am grateful for St John Ambulance for giving me the opportunity to make a difference.”
Matt Willis - Busted band member and vaccination volunteer
“I remember St John from backstage at venues and festivals. At the front there was either a paramedic or someone from St John stood in front of us. I’d recognise those jackets anywhere and it’s a good feeling! Many of us have a lot of time on our hands right now and I want to be able to look back in 10/20 years and say I used that time wisely – we did our little bit and we helped in some way.”
Nadhim Zahawi - Former Vaccines Minister
For St John Ambulance’s young volunteers, 2021 was a year of disrupted studies, only seeing friends online and living through extraordinary times. Across our longstanding Cadet and Badger programmes, plus innovative new ventures like NHS Cadets, Young Responders and Health Citizens, the focus on youth is a growing aspect of our charity’s work.
Luke Stevenson - St John Ambulance Cadet of the Year 2020 & 2021
“If I have learnt one thing from 2021 it’s that our young people are the driving force of our youth programmes. I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many of them from up and down the country and I say to them, ‘You are the reason that we are seeing more opportunities than ever before for our young people. You answered the call for help, you conducted yourself impeccably and you’ve shone a light on the capabilities of young people.’ I mean every word of it.
“Cadets who volunteered to train vaccinators, brand training materials, run virtual unit meeting nights, stock kit at logistic hubs and so much more, sent a reminder out that young people are not just the next generation of St John volunteers; they are the current generation of St John volunteers. They offer energy and enthusiasm that is second to none.”
Minali Mihiripenna - NHS Cadet
“I always knew I wanted to help people when I’m older. St John opened me up to amazing career prospects within the NHS and wonderful world of healthcare. I feel I’ve gained more knowledge on a career in health and have been given insightful opportunities to learn from real, inspiring healthcare professionals.”
Raisa Stefanescu - St John Ambulance Cadet
Jayden Sorhaindo - St John Ambulance Cadet
"No matter what your race, your gender, anyone can do anything. If you set your mind to reach up to your dreams, and if you work hard, put in the effort, you’ll get there.
I'm definitely going to stay on volunteering with St John, even after I get my career, I want to stay and help them like they helped me"
We have supported communities across England via projects and programmes that have the potential to expand in future.
Hospital volunteering is among the most successful innovations that have happened within St John during the pandemic – opening up important new partnerships with the NHS.
First aid training
We have educated around half a million people in life saving skills and restored our vital workplace training post covid, swiftly and safely – including successfully blending online and secure face-to-face delivery – with the numbers of people trained up 53% on 2020. And we laid the groundwork for a major expansion of community training in first aid skills that could save lives – including teaching at least 60,000 more people CPR in 2022.
Dr Zain Osmani - Emergency Ambulance Crew
“For me, last year was about public service. St John people stepped up to serve when presented with unprecedented circumstances and together we delivered exactly as per the motto, pro utilitate hominum – in the service of humanity. The vast majority of my time in St John during 2021 was spent volunteering as Emergency Ambulance Crew, supporting London Ambulance Service by responding to emergency calls across London whilst the service was under immense pressure.
“Becoming a doctor was a childhood ambition of mine and St John Ambulance has played an huge role in helping me accomplish that dream – the combination of delivering a Sky News live interview on behalf of St John and celebrating my graduation day was incredibly special for me. I am forever grateful to everything St John Ambulance has offered me both as a young person and as an adult volunteer, and I look forward to giving back to the charity as a doctor for many years to come.”
Dr Lynn Thomas - Medical Director
Dr Ian Quigley - Cardiac arrest survivor
“Defibrillating someone is easy. You bare the chest, apply the pads and let the machine do its thing. The difficult thing is to have the right people, with the kit at the right place and the right time. St John Ambulance had a team of people trained and ready to go at the very moment I needed help. Most people who have a cardiac arrest are not that fortunate.
“I have an undying gratitude to the men and women who gave up their Sunday morning to stand around in the October drizzle waiting to save someone's life. My life. And in a way, the lives of my wife and family and friends. And dog Mollie.
“So thank you – to the volunteers, to the people who thought to put them there, to the people who recruited and trained them. Thank you.”
We would like to give our sincere thanks to all those who so generously supported St John in 2021.
A huge thank you to everyone who supports our charity’s vital work, including those who raise funds on our behalf. From direct debits to appeals, and all the donations dropped into a collection tin, it helps us to save lives
2021 saw us innovate and improve. We have led, listened and learned, delivering on the commitments made in our 2019-22 Serving Your Communities strategy. We tackled the difficult financial challenges of 2020 with board-led decisions that in 2021 led to a rebalancing of our finances, bringing us to a positive start at the beginning of 2022.
It has been a year of unparalleled success. We don’t get everything right and as a charity with people at its heart we’ve invested in addressing underlying issues around our culture. Huge energy and significant investment have been put into making St John a better place to volunteer and work during 2021 – efforts that have already made a positive difference but will really bear fruit in 2022 and for many years to come.
“2021 was another year where we saw our people stepping forward and answering the needs of their communities, and I continue to be humbled by the outstanding impact that our volunteers make.
“With our people at the centre of our work, we refocused our commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and introduced five people networks. These groups have helped us understand the issues faced by our people and have been working to develop strategies to ensure all our people feel valued and have the right access to resources and opportunities.
“As well as being a year to be proud of the impact that St John made within our communities, we can also celebrate the progress that we made to support our people to have a good and positive experience from their time with us.”
Commissioner Volunteering, St John Ambulance
We have always known that first aid saves lives, but we are now recognising the breadth of what that means in full; from supporting physical and mental health, to delivering lifesaving treatments including vaccinations, along with our ability to educate at both scale and pace – evidenced by our rapid training of 27,000 new vaccination volunteers. These abilities to deliver, educate and – as individuals and as a charity – learn from our experiences will carry us forward into our strategic planning for the next five years.
Success in 2022 and the years to come will rely on a number of factors. In particular, we will deepen our relationships with the NHS, building on them in a spirit of continued partnership. The reach of our youth programmes must grow; not only in terms of greater numbers of young people engaging in them but also widening our scope to include teenagers and young adults who experience greater vulnerabilities and have limited opportunities.
As we end this look back on St John’s achievements in 2021, we should all feel proud of the amazing things we have done as St John people – from each individual patient we’ve cared for, to the enormous impact of our collective efforts on vaccination and everything in between. We are standing on the cusp of a bright new future for our charity at a time when our mission is as relevant as ever.