Covid-19: Medical students volunteer to help NHS staff with childcare and household chores
20 March 2020
As the Covid-19 outbreak increases pressure on NHS services and frontline staff, medical students at UCL are volunteering to look after doctors’ and nurses’ children and help out with other day-to-day jobs, such as dog walking and shopping.
The undergraduate medics, based at UCL’s Medical School, want to use their spare time helping critical NHS staff, who have childcare or other care responsibilities - ensuring key health workers are able to remain on the frontline and also provide with them respite.
This week – anticipating the UK government would close schools - the group launched the ‘North London Medical Students Helping Hands’ Facebook group, which acts as a ‘call to action’ to other medical students and advertises their services to healthcare staff.
Inspiration for the voluntary initiative came from Edinburgh University, where a similar group, ‘Edinburgh Medics Share’ was set up by medical school students two weeks ago.
Taking this idea forward, UCL students have also co-ordinated efforts with other UK medical schools, and more than 30 other Helping Hands groups now being set up – spanning all corners of the UK, from Bristol, to Swansea, to Belfast, to Aberdeen.
Group co-ordinator, Connor Tugulu, a 4th year student at UCL Medical School, said: “Our ‘Medical Students Helping Hands’ initiative aims to provide support to doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, who will desperately need practical help as the Covid-19 pandemic puts untold strain on the NHS.
“Over the next few weeks and months key health workers could face longer shifts and last-minute changes to rotas and having a network of “ready to go” babysitting, childcare and household support could become essential, if they are to remain on the frontline in these challenging times.
“It will not be long before we are working in the same hospitals and wards, and during this time of national crisis, we want to play our part in relieving some of the burden our great NHS staff will face.”
UCL and other medical schools in London have suspended most student placements, face-to-face teaching and have moved to 'online teaching', which has provided the students with more free time than normal.
To reassure healthcare workers who need childcare support, all UK medical students require a DBS check, and will be able to provide this documentation, along with a university reference.
Professor Deborah Gill, Director of UCL Medical School, said: “I am truly proud of the action of our students. We select our students based on the alignment of their values with NHS values; this is testament to the fact we have absolutely chosen the right young people to become future UCL doctors.”
All volunteer medical students are local to the area of their Helping Hands group and are willing to provide support to those healthcare staff who live within the locality.
NHS doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers can request help by visiting the Helping Hands Facebook page, which is local to where they live – not where they work. They should specify the support they would like and the time they need it, without adding any personal details. More information will then be exchanged via direct messaging.
- For more details about the Helping Hands initiative go to: National Health Supporters
- UCL Medical School
'Woman reading book to toddler' credit: Lina Kivaka on Pexels, CC BY 2.0
Tel: +44 (0) 207 679 5296
E: h.killworth [at] ucl.ac.uk