Oxford medical students have volunteered to help the NHS during a time of peak demand and stress. As of March 20, twenty-four 6th year students have joined the emergency department at the John Radcliffe Hospital in both administrative and patient-facing roles. This includes working at reception and performing blood tests.

According to the university, the students have already passed their Finals examinations and are qualified to deliver basic care. Additionally, non-final year students are assisting in a non-clinical capacity.

Dr Catherine Swales, the Director of Clinical Studies at Oxford University Medical School, told Cherwell that they “have volunteers from all clinical years” and that students are “matched with roles that need filling (as determined by the OUHFT). Non-final year students have been offered non-clinical roles.”

She adds that medical students are equipped for the environment of a national health emergency: “The whole course is designed to prepare students for practice. We would not allow students to volunteer in roles if we didn’t feel they were ready. We have an extensive pastoral care network both centrally and with the colleges and this is very active currently, supporting the students in what we all recognize is a stressful time.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about how medical students might receive adequate teaching when universities are closed, especially as much of their practice is clinical. Nationally, universities are considering the possibility of graduating students early. The General Medical Council (GMC) has told students that “legally, it’s for the relevant university to decide whether or not you’re able to graduate”. It encourages universities to continue education and assessment so that medical students may join the workforce as quickly as possible.