Medical students launch UK-wide favour scheme for NHS staff

A group of medical students have launched a one-stop shop support scheme for NHS workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Requests: NHS staff have been helped with childcare, shopping, pet care and prescription pick-ups.
Requests: NHS staff have been helped with childcare, shopping, pet care and prescription pick-ups.

A group of medical students have launched a one-stop shop support scheme for NHS workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The model was launched in Dundee earlier this week but has already been joined by 37 other institutions.

Organisers hope the Health Students Helping in Pandemics (HealthSHIP) website will now be adopted across the UK and Ireland.

NHS workers can request support in the form of childcare, food, shopping and pet care.

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The requests are put out to medical student volunteers in the local area who have signed up and the requests are matched up with someone who can help.

The scheme was founded by a group of medical students from Dundee University and a team of lawyers who volunteered their time in order to green light the terms and conditions and privacy aspects of the scheme.

HealthSHIP was launched on Sunday and already has more than 500 sign-ups with dozens of tasks completed or under way.

Second year medical student Cassandra Baiano, one of HealthSHIP’s founders, said: “I was sitting in bed thinking about the pandemic and wondering what I was going to do for the next three months.

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“I have no classes to attend and although I want to help in the hospitals I can’t, because I’m only a second year student. It struck me that there are a lot of us in this situation.

“Medical students are in a good position because we’ve had the background and disclosure checks, we got our PVG certificates, we’ve all had CPR training and at least some form of first aid training. We’ve all had infection control training and we’re used to caring for people through our learning experiences.

“We are also very aligned with our colleagues on the frontline. We will be doing that role one day so we’re in a position to support them.”

Cassandra, web developer Ronald MacDonald and their team of volunteers decided to build a website which could be searched by location. They then teamed up with the UK-wide National Health Supporters group to spread the word.

Each user creates a profile with contact details the and first part of their postcode plus a short biography. Only NHS staff and students can register via their verified work and student email accounts.

Cassandra explains: “You go to homepage and you can click ‘I need help’. You then input the date, time and location you need help in, and a description of what you need.

“Your post goes up on a board and students, who also have a profile, can filter requests by location. The student can view the person’s profile and they can click to offer help.

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“That offer goes to the staff member. They can look at the student’s profile and decide if they want to accept that offer of help.

“If they do, the contact details are exchanged and from that point onwards it’s arranged off the platform.”

“So far the requests have been mostly babysitting, petcare and grocery shopping,” added Cassandra.

“We’ve also had requests to pick up medication. This is something that I think we will get more of so we are in discussions with pharmacies about potentially doing medication drop-offs for them. Only PVG-checked students would be doing that, but it would a great way of helping.

“We worked really heard to create something that is free, easy to use and scalable. This is a community asset purely to help people.

“It’s been a real team effort with lots of volunteers from the online community getting in touch to help. It is nice to see something positive coming out of this difficult time.”

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