On the front line: I’m only a van driver, but everyone’s going above and beyond

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As a delivery driver for the NHS, Dave Holt is experiencing the most intense working conditions of his professional life.

In the first of a series of profiles looking at workers on the front line of the battle against Covid-19 in the UK, the 49-year-old from Farnborough tells the PA news agency what life is like right now.

– What was a normal working day like before coronavirus?

I work for Berkshire Surrey Pathology Services. We serve all the surgeries around the South East of England. All the pathology departments of these hospitals work together. We go out and collect specimens, drop off mail, absolutely anything that needs transporting. We all have our set routes, so every day was just a normal driving-a-van day. It was the same thing every day.

NHS delivery driver Dave Holt
Dave Holt says the pace of life has accelerated since Covid-19 hit the UK (Dave Holt/PA)

The pace of life has accelerated pretty dramatically. It’s a proper team effort, all hands to the deck. We’re doing lots of resupplying, we’re driving around picking up samples, getting stuff moved around, making sure that the hospitals have got their supplies. Some of the staff have had to self-isolate. We’ve gone from doing one route to doing two or three drivers’ routes on our own. I’m only a van driver, I do as I’m told, but you can clearly see everybody’s pulling together, everybody’s doing beyond everything.

– What’s it like being involved in the fight against coronavirus?

The way I look at it is quite simple: you guys have paid your tax and National Insurance – it’s my job to do what I’m told. That’s how I go out every single day. Yes it preys on my mind, yes there are times when I might have my own feelings but they have to stay at the back of my mind: I’ll go home and cry my eyes out to my missus, or let my emotions run wild with her, but when I’m at work all that has got to stay at the back of my mind. I’ve just got to focus on the job in hand.

– How do you cope with the increased stress?

When I come home I’m so tired and mentally exhausted of what I’ve seen that literally I just pass out, I just go to sleep. Bang. I turn the news off, I watch movies, I watch Star Trek, I play my computer games, just to shut myself away from it and recharge myself and think when I get up the following morning ‘right, bang, here we go again, off we go’. That’s how I deal with it.

St Peter’s Hospital near Chertsey, Surrey
Dave makes deliveries at hospitals around Surrey and Berkshire (Steve Parsons/PA)

It’s amazing to me that people in society that have been classified as shall we say at the bottom of the rung are the ones right now that are keeping the country going. The people in the shops, the bus drivers, the refuse collectors. They’re the heroes. The police officers, the ambulance drivers – all the people that are out there now keeping us all going. Even the people that are listening and staying in, sitting at home bored. I see heroism in a different form in different people every day.

– What do you make of the public’s support for the NHS?

The people that are out there clapping at night – it does make a difference. It makes you feel that you’re wanted and needed. I went into a garage to fill up with fuel and the guy behind the counter said, ‘Can I get you a coffee mate? It’s on the house’. There were three or four other people, keeping their distance, and one of the guys shouted across to me and said, ‘We all appreciate what you’re doing, mate’. I have experienced some incredible generosity and some proper inspiring moments that, when I’ve felt a bit low, have given me a bit of a kick up the backside. It means a lot.

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