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James Bowey


In the world that existed before COVID-19, James was a British Airways pilot who flew passengers in jumbo jets to Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the United States. 

But when the pandemic struck, the aviation industry, and with it the 29-year-old’s job, was, to use his word, “decimated” almost overnight. His last flight was on 28 March last year, repatriating cruise workers from Miami. 

“I found myself grounded for potentially two-and-a-half years,” says James who, despite this shattering personal blow, refused to rest on his laurels. 

“I thought, ‘if COVID-19 is going to decimate my primary industry, I might as well try and beat it in another form,’” he says. 

So for several months, he conducted coronavirus testing surveys for the Office of National Statistics, only for his life to take another turn when he spotted an opportunity to join the Trust’s vaccination programme. 

“I thought, ‘I might as well try. It might be a really interesting thing to do,’” he says. 

Trust recruiters were impressed by James’s transferable skills and offered him a job. 

Several months later he is now head of operations at the Etchingham vaccination centre, a partnership between SCFT and GPs which opened in mid-January. 

James played a key role setting up the centre and had no hesitation in calling in the military when it had to undergo a three-fold expansion in its first week. 

“It’s something so different to what I’ve done before,” he says. “It’s a constant daily challenge and I love being mentally engaged like that. And it’s doing something that is a big cause at the moment. It’s really good fun, to be honest.” 

James appreciates his team’s hard work and dedication. 

“When I look at the guys working on the ground, they are working as hard as they can and offering up as much of their free time as they can,” he says. 

James has also grown to appreciate the NHS and the demands of a “dynamic” challenge which has required him to “flex, work with it, and offer my services as best as I can”. 

Despite the difficulties, he feels positive about the country’s future. 

“I don’t think everything is going to be changing quickly. It’s just going to be that slow, positive increase [towards re-opening], and not in every aspect of life. There’s light at the end of the tunnel now,” he says. 

James is also optimistic about his own future, and says his recent experiences have improved him. 

“Hopefully, I can take the learning from here and take it back into the cockpit,” he says.