Mobilising our resources to support others

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 13:35:00 BST

As the country mobilises to meet the challenge of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic many hundreds of thousands of people are volunteering their time and resources. This is also true of our University, where many of our colleagues are stepping forward to apply their knowledge, skills and experience and give their time to benefit society during this global crisis.

A COVID-19 Research Rapid Response Group has been established to bring together the research and innovation strengths in Greater Manchester. University staff with specialist skills are supporting clinical services in the NHS away from their core University roles.

These include scientists with specific laboratory skills as well as clinical trial specialists, epidemiologists, data scientists and project managers.

For other staff wishing to volunteer the University is promoting the Government’s NHS Volunteer Responders scheme to support the distribution of food, equipment and acts of kindness such as keep-in-touch calls.

In addition, for staff wishing to focus their effort locally we are promoting the Mayor’s Coronavirus Greater Manchester Support for Residents Scheme, or they can simply make a difference in their local area by volunteering in their own neighbourhood through shopping and phone-calls using the government’s guidance.

Other offers of support and help are coming from across the University. Our Food on Campus team have supported local foodbanks and the homeless community using the team’s fridges and vans to store and share unused food, including delivering food to Fareshare and a local refugee charity.

We’ve also opened up our carparks for use by the NHS and a wide range of discussions are taking place about collaborating and sharing other facilities and expertise.

The University is also contributing to a nationally coordinated response for equipment sharing such as PPE, chemicals, resources and coronavirus testing equipment. For example, together with Air Liquide, we are re-purposing a large nitrogen tank, intended for installation on the University’s campus. The tank will now be installed at Air Liquide’s Birmingham facility to increase the supply of medical oxygen needed by the NHS.

Students from all disciplines have been volunteering their time supporting local organisations such as foodbanks, food distribution services and mutual aid groups in their neighbourhoods. Students are volunteering through the University’s Volunteering website, which is directing them to the most appropriate local and national opportunities.

More than 450 medical and social care students have stepped forward to support NHS workers while they tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Called the Manchester National Health Supporters, the students are providing help to NHS workers so they can get on with the day job – including support collecting groceries, babysitting children, pet walking and manning the receptions at GP surgeries.

The idea originated from Saif Khan, a fourth year medic at the University, after he noticed medics voicing concerns on social media about how they would balance their home life with work commitments in the coming weeks.

Many of our medical and health science students have found themselves on the frontline, for example as placement nurses, medics and pharmacists. These students are being guided by their course and programme leaders to assess different ways they can support the NHS, all whilst ensuring their safety and wellbeing.