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News Degree apprentices join COVID-19 testing frontline.

Staffordshire University’s degree apprentices are helping to ramp up COVID-19 testing across England.

Healthcare Science degree apprentices at work in Staffordshire University labs
Image: Healthcare Science degree apprentices at work in Staffordshire University labs

This pandemic highlights the vital role that biological and biomedical scientists have in healthcare – not just in the testing for disease itself, but across the whole life science arena, from disease prevention and surveillance, to developing new treatments and diagnostic methods. We are very proud of how our students, staff, and graduates are contributing to this united response against COVID-19.

Dr Angela Priestman, Head of Biological Sciences at Staffordshire University,

The 75 students, all training to become Biomedical Scientists through a Degree Apprenticeship in Healthcare Science, work in hospital pathology laboratories and are part of the team of scientists responding to the pandemic.

The students are based in hospitals as far afield as Hull and Plymouth, including several working in the laboratories serving Guy‘s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London where many of the first cases were admitted, and where the Prime Minister is currently receiving treatment. At the Royal Stoke Hospital, 10 students are working in laboratories undertaking COVID-19 testing and supporting clinical services across the Trust.

Biomedical scientists working in hospital pathology laboratories are the backbone of the diagnostic response to COVID-19. Across the country they are working round the clock to ramp up testing capacity, as well as maintaining the essential diagnostic services to support other urgent clinical care, for example diagnosing cancer or providing blood transfusions for major accidents and trauma.

Ian Davies, Course leader for the Healthcare Science course and a biomedical scientist himself, said “Our Healthcare Science Degree Apprenticeship students are on the front line in responding to this pandemic. They are working extra hours and have cancelled their leave to support this testing, and many have rapidly taken on new roles and training to support their colleagues – their commitment has been amazing and we are so proud of them”.

The contribution of Staffordshire University’s Biological Sciences department does not stop there. Academic staff are developing training programmes to support Biomedical Scientists returning to practice from retirement, and the University’s technical service team have been involved distributing personal protective equipment from the University’s Science Centre laboratories to local hospices and care homes.

Staffordshire University graduates are also playing their part. Sarah Clinton, a molecular biology graduate and education manager at the Regional Genetics Laboratory in Birmingham is spearheading the Healthcare Science response to COVID-19 across the region, whilst Siobhan Roche, a biological sciences graduate, is part of the team co-ordinating clinical trials of COVID-19 treatment across the West Midlands.

Dr Angela Priestman, Head of Biological Sciences at Staffordshire University, said “This pandemic highlights the vital role that biological and biomedical scientists have in healthcare – not just in the testing for disease itself, but across the whole life science arena, from disease prevention and surveillance, to developing new treatments and diagnostic methods. We are very proud of how our students, staff, and graduates are contributing to this united response against COVID-19."

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