Students and graduates from computing courses at Birmingham City University have taken on support roles with Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, volunteering time and offering support during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The collaboration has led to current University students as well as alumni who are keen to develop their technical skills gaining real-life experience, giving back to the NHS.

NHS Trusts rely heavily on their IT and technology infrastructures to deliver essential care, from accessing patient records and test results to the procurement and of ordering supplies, as well as other business functions such as payroll.

Technology is playing an increasingly vital role in ensuring patients can be seen by their clinical teams as increasing numbers of clinics, consultations, training and staff briefings are being conducted virtually through online video tools.

John Borland, ICT Operations Manager who is overseeing the programme at Birmingham Women and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The ICT team at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Foundation Trust are focussed on ensuring that all our essential services are maintained and that we can enable staff to work from home where possible; this means some of our development projects and innovations have had to be put on hold while we do this.

“Having additional support from Birmingham City University is helping our team by spreading the load a little wider enabling some of the ‘nice to have’ requests to be fulfilled rather than just high priority requests.  We hope that working together will expose some of our existing ICT staff to news ideas and technologies the students have pursued at university.”

Initially four students were recruited by the University’s Careers+ team from a mix of year groups and courses, but primarily Computer Science and Computer Networks and Security, to work within the Trust’s Service Desk team answering telephone calls and fulfilling online requests.

The students work two or three days a week, observing social distancing in offices away from the main building.

23-year-old graduate Mohamed Jiaudeen from Handsworth, Birmingham and amongst the first cohort, said, “It has been an amazing experience for me to work in the NHS so far. The experience is providing me with an opportunity to explore into the Service Desk Analyst role which I have been considering to be the potential starting point for my career. Working alongside staff with more than 10 years of experience in this role has allowed me to gain valuable information and skills; my manager and colleagues, particularly Daniel Miley, have been very friendly and welcoming.”

Professor Hanifa Shah, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Computing, Engineering the Built Environment at Birmingham City University, welcomed the partnership with the NHS Trust, saying “Computing and infrastructure support is playing a vital role in enhancing the collection and handling of data to enable staff at the NHS frontline to deliver the best possible care. The management of the response to COVID-19 requires large scale, system wide collaboration, enabled though the use of technology to provide access to information, maintain connectivity, and support remote working – and we are delighted to partner with the Trust in this way.”

Birmingham City University and Birmingham Women and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust aim to have 12 volunteers in place by July 2020.