HUNDREDS of graduate medics and 2000 student nurses are lending their support in the fight against coronavirus and will be joining hospital wards across Scotland to support key staff.

They include 200 newly qualified University of Edinburgh graduates who will have the opportunity to join the NHS workforce sooner than they would have anticipated, as part of the UK’s response to the virus.

The scale of the crisis, and the pressure it is placing on the NHS, prompted many medical schools, including Edinburgh, to speed up the graduation process.

Read more: Coronavirus in Scotland: Gregor Smith to 'take over reins' from chief medical officer

More than 100 medical students from the University of Dundee have opted to graduate early and register with the General Medical Council (GMC) so they can start work immediately. More than 2,000 student nurses have volunteered to support the coronavirus response, Scotland's chief nursing officer (CNO) Fiona McQueen has said, while hundreds of doctors are graduating early to join the NHS.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon added: "We are asking a lot of nursing and midwifery students to step up at this unprecedented time when they have already experienced significant disruption as they come to the end of their courses.

"Their skills and experience will be vital in the coming months as we work to save as many lives as possible."

The University of Edinburgh said an accelerated registration process is allowing the new graduates to join the NHS early as Foundation Year doctors, if they choose.

This postgraduate programme is a bridge between medical school and specialist or general practice training.

They added the new system will operate on a voluntary basis. Induction and training will be provided, along with the necessary personal protection equipment.

New staff will be appropriately supervised and will not be asked to work beyond their competence. The medical school with continue to provide support and mentoring. New starts, who will be paid, will be deployed in a variety of ways across the NHS.

Professor Moira Whyte, head of the College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine, said: "It is a source of great pride to the University of Edinburgh that our excellent and committed group of final year medical students will be graduating earlier than expected. Many of them will be joining the NHS sooner than they might have anticipated and volunteering their services to society during these challenging times."

Read more: Coronavirus in Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon aims to recruit 'army' of NHS volunteers

Professor David Kluth, director of Undergraduate Medical Teaching, the University of Edinburgh, said they had been working on plans for the past week to enable their students to help support the NHS.

Professor Kluth said: "Many students have already expressed a desire to help. They are keen to do what they studied and trained six years for. I know my clinical colleagues will welcome their help and we will ensure they have all the support they need over the coming weeks. We are lucky to have such talented doctors who can step up in this way."

At the University of Dundee final year students would usually have a ceremony in June but instead the process has been accelerated to help with the crisis.

One graduate said they are as ready as they'll ever be to start work as doctors.

Emma Box, 24, said: “Starting work as a doctor is always going to be

daunting. For the many new graduates joining the NHS workforce, the biggest difference is the uncertainty that has come with this.

“It’s easiest just to take it one day at a time and wait for the governing bodies to let us know if and when we can help."

The young medic, from Linlithgow, West Lothian, said: “I think it’s important for everyone, my fellow medical students as well as the general public, to remember that we’re as ready as we’ll ever be to start work as doctors.

"They’re not recruiting people who aren’t quite qualified, it’s just about speeding up the official processing to allow people who have completed their training to start work slightly sooner than usual.

"This is what we’ve trained for, and we’re as ready as we can be.”

Her colleague, Rachael Long, 24, described the situation as "surreal."

Ms Long, from Glasgow, added: "We’ve been invited to apply to start work early, but we don’t know how soon that’s going to happen, where exactly we’ll be asked to work or what’s going to be expected of us, but hopefully that all becomes clear soon.

"It’s a daunting prospect that hasn’t really sunk in yet, but we’ve had five years of training to prepare so we should be in a good position to help when we’re needed.”

Professor Rory McCrimmon, Dean of the School of Medicine at Dundee, said the NHS is facing a crisis like we have never seen, and it requires as much help as we can muster.

He said: “It is certainly an unusual graduation for them, and we will look to give them a full celebration of their achievements when such events can be arranged again.

"But for the moment their help may be needed urgently and they are now in position to do that as qualified doctors.

“I am confident they will make a real contribution to the NHS during this crisis.”

CNO Ms McQueen paid tribute to the "compassionate care and professionalism" of the student nurses who have volunteered for NHS Scotland, with the majority starting work this week.

Speaking at the government's press briefing in Edinburgh, Ms McQueen said there had been an "amazing response" to calls for student nurses, with universities organising for them to graduate early so they can be qualified to take part in the emergency efforts.

Ms McQueen said: "Our regulator, our universities across Scotland and our NHS boards have all worked together tirelessly to make sure that our senior students at the end of their education can join our NHS workforce.

"We've had an amazing response from our third and fourth-year students who have offered to step up and come into our health service ahead of when they graduate so they can be part of the workforce and help what is an incredible response for patients.

"So this week we are seeing over 2,000 of them being deployed. Some of them won't start until next week but the majority have started yesterday and today, and it's a real thrill for me to see the compassionate care and the professionalism they have in stepping up."

In Glasgow hundreds of student nurses will be supporting the fight against coronavirus.

More than 500 third-year students from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) have begun their inductions with health boards across Scotland.

It follows a call from the Scottish Government for student nurses to lend their support to the NHS early.

The students, who are in their final year, are working at hospitals including NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Golden Jubilee National Hospital, NHS Dumfries and Galloway and NHS Ayrshire and Arran.

In an open letter last week to final-year allied health professional students, Carolyn McDonald, chief allied health professions officer, called on students to "agree to become part of your local health and social care workforce".

She wrote: "You will be paid for the work and will have the same terms and conditions as any employee. At the same time, you will continue to be a student of your university, and they will provide you with academic support to enable you to graduate on time, as much as is possible."

Professor Jacqueline McCallum, head of GCU's department of nursing and community health, said: "We are incredibly proud of all our 500-plus third-year students who have started their paid placements with the NHS at this critical time."

She added that the clinical skills the students have been developing are "highly relevant" to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since our recent move to online learning, students, with the support from the nursing lecturers, have been able to continue their studies with the use of a range online scenarios," she said.

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