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Norwich volunteers among those staffing new helpline for NHS staff fighting pandemic

PUBLISHED: 06:30 08 April 2020 | UPDATED: 08:30 08 April 2020

Norwich Samaritans volunteers will help staff the new helpline for NHS staff. Photo: Bill Smith

Norwich Samaritans volunteers will help staff the new helpline for NHS staff. Photo: Bill Smith

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Volunteers in Norwich will be among those answering calls from NHS workers at the heart of the coronavirus fight on a new helpline set up to safeguard their mental health.

The Norwich Samaritans centre. Picture: Denise BradleyThe Norwich Samaritans centre. Picture: Denise Bradley

The NHS has launched the new phone line in a bid to support its 1.4m members of staff.

More than 1,500 volunteers will be staffing the lines from charities including Shout and the Samaritans.

They include some from Norwich Samaritans, which has been supporting people in distress or at risk of suicide for more than 55 years.

Bob Kuczma, its director, said: “When the call went out to the branch there was an overwhelming response by our volunteers.

MORE: ‘Some callers cannot see another way’ - lifting the lid on life as a Samaritan

“The normal helpline on 116 123 will back up the initial small number of dedicated volunteers to try and ensure that anyone phoning will be able to get through no matter what time of the day.”

NHS staff will be able to call or text a free number staffed by specially trained volunteers. It will be open between 7am to 11pm every day, and the text service will operate 24/7.

Norwich Samaritans, which is based at St Stephens Square, has appealed for help as it weathers the pandemic.

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Having been declared an essential service by the government, the charity remains open and volunteers are able to carry out shifts while following strict hygiene and social distancing guidelines. It has closed the branch to face-to-face visitors.

But with its two shops - on Westlegate and Aylsham Road - closed and fundraising events cancelled, it is turning to the generosity of the public for financial help.

Mr Kuczma said: “Our volunteers are caring and dedicated individuals who volunteer their time for others.

MORE: NOT ALONE - Can you help keep people mentally well during the coronavirus crisis?

“Now more than ever, we need the public’s continued support. Due to the cancellation of our upcoming fundraising events and the closure of our shops, we are facing a significant loss of funding, so we are calling on Norwich and Norfolk residents to help us ensure that we continue to be here for anyone who needs support.”

Mr Kuczma said a donation as of little as £5 would help volunteers answer a call for help from someone struggling to cope.

To make a donation or find out more about supporting the charity visit www.samaritans.org/branches/norwich/

If you wish to send a cheque, please make it payable to Norwich Samaritans, c/o 19 St. Stephens Square, Norwich, Norfolk, NR1 3SS.

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