Students giving a helping hand to NHS staff at time of need

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Medical students at Newcastle University are giving NHS staff a helping hand during the challenging times of the coronavirus outbreak.

Sabina Wallace-King

As COVID-19 continues to cause major disruption across the country, many healthcare workers are facing increasing pressures with long hours and last-minute changes to their working schedules.

For months, childcare may become a strain for NHS staff and, to help ease this, a team of fourth and final year Newcastle University students have set up the North East group of Medical Students Helping Hands – which is a national initiative.

Help for frontline staff

The purpose of the volunteer group is to give practical help with childcare, assist with shopping, and in some cases animal care, for health workers who need free, flexible assistance during this taxing period.

Sabina Wallace-King, a final year medical student at Newcastle University, is a co-founder of the regional group, with a team of students who will help cover care for hospitals in Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland, Teesside and Durham.

The 30-year-old said: “It’s a very uncertain time for people and the NHS will be put under significant strain as medical staff deal with the unprecedented pressures this public health crisis will sadly bring.

“As students, we have more time on our hands than NHS staff, but we still want to do all we can to help the health service run smoothly and support those who are working on the frontline to save lives.

Our group will assist with the childcare and animal care, such as dog walking and feeding, and help with shopping, for NHS staff who will be working long, irregular hours and may need round-the-clock support.

A lot of those who will ask for our help will be doctors and colleagues who already know, and trust, the students who are offering to assist at all times of the day and night.”

The students will have had DBS Criminal Record checks and are responsible adults, many of whom will already have childcare and animal care experience.

NHS staff who work in the area can approach the volunteer service online via Facebook, outlining what care support they need, their general location and what times they need help.

Dedicated students

The safety of the students, NHS workers and those getting care, are paramount and measures are in place by the Medical Students Helping Hands group to ensure this as much as possible.

Already many people have approached the group for help and more and more students are offering their assistance, including medical, occupational therapist, nurses, physiotherapists and student teachers.

Professor Steve Jones, Head of the Medical School at Newcastle University, said: “The students’ initiative shows how dedicated and determined they are in helping the NHS and it certainly makes me very proud to be Head of the Medical School.

“I know that the volunteer scheme has been much appreciated in the hospitals throughout the North East and now that schools have shut this will be even more important to NHS staff.

The students’ efforts have been a boost to everyone at the University and among many in the healthcare community.”