“This response has shown our University community’s strong sense of duty and service, and they are acting on that to contribute and to help.
“I’m immensely proud of the contribution being made during this time of unprecedented challenge, not just in our faculty but across the whole University. Our staff and students have shown great imagination in coming up with so very many different ways in which to support the NHS.
“The enthusiasm and desire to help among our students, to see how keen they are to serve, has been particularly humbling. And everyone is finding ways of helping.
“So many staff in our own faculty have taken on enhanced clinical roles or volunteered to help in laboratory and administrative work in response to COVID-19. The willingness to enter the front line and help the NHS and social care is a true marker of the commitment of our students and staff to our community.”
Professor Sube Banerjee, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health
Supporting research into vaccination
The University is liaising with the Government and has made its cutting-edge Derriford Research Facility and around 40 scientists from the Faculty of Health and the Faculty of Science and Engineering available to support research and testing.
Scientists from the University of Plymouth have started work on a coronavirus vaccine designed to prevent outbreaks similar to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Researchers at The Vaccine Group (TVG), a University spinout company, and Dr Michael Jarvis have made significant steps in the development of vaccines that could be used to tackle COVID-19 in animals. They are now looking to adapt its novel vaccine platform technology to prevent future human coronavirus zoonotic emergence.
Our students are helping the NHS
The University is working with NHS Trusts and professional and awarding bodies to ensure final year students from across the Faculty of Health can volunteer to enter the workforce as soon as possible.
Not all students are able to volunteer, but over the coming weeks the University will contribute hundreds of new clinical staff to the local NHS workforce from the largest range of healthcare programmes in the South West.
“This is an incredibly unique opportunity that has fallen unto us that no other cohorts have experienced and provides us with the ability to make a difference when our country and NHS need us the most.”Hear from our students who are stepping up to support the NHS
“It made a big difference to me to know that the people caring for me, some of them at least, were our own former students who I had helped train. Now I have come out the other side, I am just so proud of all our present and former students like the ones who looked after me.”
Supporting the ambulance service
BSc (Hons) Paramedic Science was the first course in the region and one of the first in the UK to reach a position where eligible students could be enrolled onto the Health and Care Professions Council’s temporary register, meaning they can apply for posts as Newly Qualified Paramedics (NQPs). Many members of staff are also doing extra shifts to support the ambulance service.
“The ambulance service is already feeling the impact of the virus and very keen for our students to start. We felt it was our moral responsibility to make this happen as quickly as possible, for those who are willing and able to go forward into work straightaway. From day one they will be doing difficult work and having to take tough decisions. They will have our support, and they will have all the appropriate support from the service. I think all of us, students and staff can be proud that we’re doing our bit to help the NHS.”
Matt Griggs, Programme Leader and Lecturer
Our staff are returning to the front line
Our academics from across the faculty are taking on extra work in the NHS and in some cases, returning to the front line after working full-time in academia. The University has a large number of clinical academics who work both in teaching or research, and in an NHS Trust role.
Peninsula Dental School and Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise have seconded staff to help provide emergency care to COVID-19 positive or symptomatic patients, as well as a public health dentist to support the Public Health England Southwest Infection Control Incident Cell.
“I couldn't sit at home when my knowledge and skills could help others and support existing teams.”
Professor Bridie Kent, Professor of Leadership Nursing, is now working as a registered nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at Derriford Hospital.
Read how Bridie and Associate Professor Pam Nelmes have returned to practice to provide critical care for COVID-19 patients.
Delivering training to NHS staff
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many NHS staff are being called upon to work in different clinical areas. As the largest provider of healthcare training in the South West, the University is uniquely positioned to be able to offer facilities and expert teachers to support these staff.
On Monday 6 and Tuesday 7 April, our Clinical Skills academics delivered training for staff from Derriford Hospital in the University’s Clinical Skills Simulation Suite in the reopened John Bull Building, Plymouth.
Our Clinical Skills facilities in the Knowledge Spa, Royal Cornwall Hospital have been handed over to the NHS to train its own staff, along with a common room to be used for staff respite.
Providing recyclable face shields for frontline staff
Academics in the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics have worked with Plympton-based Prestige Packaging to design and manufacture an initial batch of 20,000 face shields.
Each shield's frame and strap are made from a folding boxboard that is 100% recyclable, 100% compostable and made from FSC-certified wood products. The anti-fog, anti-glare, see-through visor is made from a type of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) that is 100% recyclable and can be returned back into the production cycle.
The shields comply with EU Commission Recommendation (EU) 2020/403 for PPE, meaning they have been approved for use by healthcare workers, first responders and other personnel involved in the efforts to contain the COVID-19 virus, and avoid its further spread, and can now carry the CE mark.
Supplying equipment to the NHS and staff in the city
Ventilators and other medical kit along with significant quantities of personal protective equipment were handed over to the NHS as a priority at the start of the outbreak.
Technical and research staff from the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business and the Faculty of Science and Engineering are also using state-of-the-art technology to create 3D-printed components for face shields. Once assembled and packaged up with instructions, hundreds of the items are being delivered to staff working across the city in an effort to help lower their risk of infection.
The project is being progressed in partnership with Babcock International, the Royal Navy and Plymouth College of Art, as well as independent 3D printing enthusiasts from the city’s maker community.
Providing a psychologically informed response to COVID-19
“The psychological workforce is rapidly mobilising to provide support during the crisis phase and anticipating the mental health needs of the population moving forward. This means that staff employed on the Doctorate Programme in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy) who also have jobs in the NHS are actively involved in configuring new services.
“Health Education England and NHS England have issued advice confirming that both qualified clinical psychologists and trainees (on doctoral programmes) should not be redeployed into roles where they are not using their psychological skills set, as there will be a great need for managing the mental health and wellbeing needs of all those struggling with the unprecedented demands imposed by the COVID-19 crisis.
“These include: health anxiety, the impact of self-isolation, increased risks associated with domestic violence and child abuse, economic impact, increased rates of self-harm and suicide, supporting front line workers, coping with intensive care treatment and bereavement and many others.
“Trainees will be accommodating changed working practices on their clinical placements and are already showing great resilience to meeting these challenges. They will continue to train and work through whatever now unfolds while we make necessary adjustments for their assessments to reflect new competencies.
“We anticipate they will be at the cutting edge of establishing and delivering a psychologically informed response to COVID-19 as part of their learning.
“A DClinPsy team member works as a Clinical Psychologist for Livewell South West, and was redeployed to help establish a COVID-19 helpline in collaboration with Plymouth City Council. This new service, Caring for Plymouth will provide support for many of the city’s most vulnerable and we anticipate that some of our trainees will become involved in its delivery.”
Dr Jacqui Stedmon, Director of the Doctorate Programme in Clinical Psychology
Creatively supporting home-schooling during lockdown
Dr Sam Willis and Professor James Daybell, the creators of the hugely popular Histories of the Unexpected podcast series, are producing home-schooling specials every week that are dedicated to children who are being home-schooled during the coronavirus crisis.
A Message from Corona
Final-year dentistry student Charity Tedder has written a book to help make the coronavirus pandemic “less daunting” for children.
The story is written from the point of view of “Corona”, a tiny virus that wants to travel the world. As the plot develops, the virus and its brothers and sisters realise that they are making humans ill, and offer a range of information about how the virus is spread, how children can stop it and what they should and should not do.
Illustration by Leighton Noyes
Small Business Workforce Fund
If you are adapting your business or currently supporting the COVID-relief effort, the Small Business Workforce Fund can help.
To provide flexibility to businesses facing changing market demands, this temporary fund, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), allows graduates to be employed as a paid-intern for three months to fill any existing skills gaps.
The fund will provide incentive payments to cover up to 50% of the graduate employee salary – up to £200 per week, or £2,400 over three months.