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Bristol medical students ready to step up to help in midst of coronavirus crisis

By ellie pipe, Tuesday Mar 31, 2020

An “overwhelming desire to help” has spurred on medical students set to qualify early so they can help the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ben Turner is one of more than 220 in their final year at Bristol University who will take part in a virtual ceremony on Friday before being provisionally registered by the General Medical Council (GMC) and stepping to the fore as doctors.

Ben is one of 220 medical students set to qualify early to help the NHS. Photo courtesy of Bristol University

“After a minimum of five years of study, final year medical students possess fundamental skills to support our NHS colleagues at this time of national crisis,” says Ben.

“The cohort feels an overwhelming desire to help and graduating us early is vital to support hospitals already feeling the strain, to allow for the reallocation of more senior doctors to the frontline and create capacity in the system as medical staff increasingly need to self-isolate.

“It is important to remember that, whilst COVID-19 cases are rising amongst the inpatient population, other unwell patients continue to present to the health service. Ensuring the highest standard of care for all patients remains the number one priority of everyone within the NHS family; early graduation of final year nurses and medical students will reinforce the national fight against this virus.”

Bristol will be one of the first medical schools in the country to do this and the students could be working in hospitals before the end of April.

It is anticipated the newly-qualified doctors will predominantly be working on the wards in the region’s hospitals, clerking new patients, checking on admitted patients, assisting more senior doctors, ordering tests and checking results, prescribing drugs and undertaking procedures such as siting drips.

John Gilbert says he and fellow students are ready to work and want to help out. Photo courtesy of Bristol University

John Gilbert, another final year medical student, says: “Myself and my fellow final year students want to help the NHS as much as we can.

“Many of us have already demonstrated to the Medical School and the General Medical Council all of the necessary requirements to graduate as doctors. During this time of international crisis, a health crisis, we want to start work a few months early so that we can help our colleagues, help our NHS, and help our country to overcome Covid-19.

“We are ready to work; we want to help out, and we are entering a well-supported and caring community of NHS professionals who will supervise us.”

Bristol Medical School will be providing practical and topical advice and information about starting as a doctor to the newly-qualified cohort, as well as support.

Professor Jane Norman, dean of Health Sciences at the university, says: “Medical schools across the nation are working hard to ensure that their final year students are fully trained and ready for qualification.

“We will be one of, if not the first medical school to qualify our students, but over the next few months many medical schools will do the same. With this additional workforce and all the dedicated retired staff who have recently returned to service, the NHS will be in a much stronger position to look after the nation.”

Dr Andrew Blythe, Bristol Medical School programme director, added: “We are immensely proud of our final year class who have been magnificent. They are well trained, capable and their positive response to the crisis has been overwhelming.

“The staff and students have worked extremely hard to ensure that the students have completed all aspects of their training and are ready to work as junior doctors.”

Vice-chancellor and president professor Hugh Brady is due to attend the virtual graduation ceremony on Friday, expressing thanks to the students for their service.

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