Meet the man who volunteered to work on Sunderland's covid ward within weeks of outbreak
A charitable fundraiser swapped his 9 to 5 job to work on a coronavirus ward in Sunderland during the height of the pandemic.
Philip Bithell felt compelled to help in any way he could when the virus first hit the North East last year and volunteered to work as a ward clerk on a coronavirus ward at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
It was a complete change for the 44-year-old who was used to spending his days organising fundraising activities in his role as a charity fundraiser for South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.
“I wanted to help and to be useful,” he said.
"Much of the fundraising activity I had planned was cancelled due to covid.
"While other charitable activity was happening with donations coming in both financial and physical, I could still look after that as well as assisting where needed in the hospital.”
After volunteering for redeployment, Philip spent six weeks on covid ward E54 in April 2020, answering phones and managing enquiries from patients’ worried loved ones.
He said: “With family and friends not being able to visit, the ward would receive a lot of calls from relatives wanting updates on how their loved ones were doing.”
With a background in voluntary service, it’s second nature for Philip to try to help in any way that he can.
Once his redeployment on E54 ended, Philip was redeployed for a second time to the fit testing team at South Tyneside District Hospital – a role that sees him help staff to find correctly-fitting masks to keep them safe while doing their jobs.
Philip, who took on the role from July to October 2020, said: “I enjoyed my time on E54 despite the challenges.
"It was difficult at times and I was in an environment that was completely alien to me and far removed from my ‘day job,’ but the staff were welcoming and looked after me, making me feel a part of the team.
“I was happy to help and I still am. I don’t regret volunteering for redeployment.
"With fit testing I get an immediate sense of achievement when I find a mask that fits a staff member, which will keep them safe while they deliver care to others.”