A pair of Dundee-based medical students have launched an online platform to support key workers during the coronavirus outbreak.
Health Students Helping in Pandemics (HealthSHIP), the brainchild of Cassandra Baiano and Ronald MacDonald, has already seen nearly 800 people across the UK sign up to the portal since its launch on March 22.
Through the site, frontline workers can request support with childcare, pet care, admin, grocery shopping and medicine delivery.
The requests are then put out to student volunteers, who are signed up to the site and based in the local area.
There are currently students from 66 universities volunteering in the innovative project.
Cassandra, 29, said: “I knew that my nieces, who live abroad, were already no longer attending school and I realised that we were heading in that direction. I started thinking, as soon as the schools close, who would be caring for the children of these workers?”
After putting out a Tweet expressing her desire to help, Cassandra was overwhelmed at the amount of people offering suggestions and help. Twelve hours later they were discussing how to move the idea forward.
“As medical students I knew we had basic CPR and other skills that meant we could help care for children,” she said.
“I also knew that we needed to develop a solution that could be used nationwide and would be free for all; a community asset that would be able to help people.
“There are five tasks currently available that students are able to assist with. We recently included the admin option because we thought there might be GP surgeries who might need clinical support – even if we’re just helping with filing or taking the bins out.”
The platform allows staff, after creating a profile to post their needs and location, to connect with students who are able to offer their services. When a new post comes in for a specific postcode, an alert is sent to the nearest helpers.
“We really want to make it open for anyone who needs support who is working on the frontline,” Cassandra said.
“The engagement so far has been really positive. We’ve had 784 people sign up across the UK and Ireland since its creation.
“It’s really a connecting platform, putting workers and students in touch with one another. They exchange contact details and arrange the meeting off the platform.
“We haven’t opened the site up to the broader public yet. We’ve had various members of the public asking if they can be help but, as of yet, we haven’t needed that input. If we needed them we would open it up to people in the community.
“We’re still very new and at the moment we’re just trying to see what people actually need and adapting where necessary.”
Students and NHS staff will need a professional or university email address in order to sign up and all students will need to declare whether they have a PVG certificate.
Those that do not have this will not be able to participate in childcare tasks.
Key workers outwith the NHS can contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HealthSHIP is working in tandem with National Health Supporters.