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Supporting the response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Last updated: 14/09/2020 08:59

Stock image of coronavirus

We are committed to working with government, our communities and the health and care services in the coming months to respond to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Our civic mission strategy sets out the importance of our role to improve the health and wellbeing of the people of Wales. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak we are offering our support to meet these responsibilities using resources and expertise from across the University.

Supporting NHS Wales

Increasing medical and healthcare worker capacity

In consultation with NHS Wales, we are fast-tracking final-year medical and healthcare students to be available to support front-line NHS teams. 1,000 of our medical students have responded to an expression of interest to form part of a temporary workforce assisting health boards in Wales in the fight against coronavirus.

Over 1,000 healthcare students are supporting the NHS workforce across allied health professions, nursing and midwifery. This includes 465 nursing students, working under the new emergency guidelines and 33 midwifery students.

Several of our staff have also been deployed into clinical practice and are working on the front line in coronavirus (COVID-19) wards, while others are in general practice or supporting efforts through medical education.

Training and skill refresh sessions

Staff at the School of Healthcare Sciences in a hospital training suite using a dummy to offer training and a skills refresh to staff returning to the NHS.
Staff at our School of Healthcare Sciences delivering a unique programme to prepare NHS practitioners who do not usually work in intensive care settings.

Our School of Healthcare Sciences is providing training and skill refresh sessions to staff who are being drafted back into the health service. Over 700 NHS staff from the Cardiff and Vale and Aneurin Bevan University Health Boards have now received training to help prepare them to ‘step-in’ if extra resource is required at Intensive Care Units (ICUs).

After being approached by Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW), the team managed to plan and implement the unique programme for NHS practitioners in less than four days. Staff delivering the training all have a background in critical care.

The School of Healthcare Sciences has also donated PPE, pulse oximeters and simulation mannequins to University Hospital Wales and the Royal Gwent Hospital.

A free mental health support scheme

A free mental health support scheme for doctors is to be extended to every frontline healthcare worker in Wales to help NHS staff tackling the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Health for Health Professionals Wales, set up and run by Cardiff University, allows NHS Wales staff to call a confidential helpline staffed by healthcare professionals, access face-to-face counselling sessions and be provided with guided self-help tools and online resources.

Using our expertise to develop medical equipment and COVID-fighting technologies

The University has joined forces with manufacturer Hard Shell to produce up to one million fluid-resistant masks a day. With assistance from the Welsh Government, specialist machinery has been brought from overseas to develop and produce masks at a Cardiff factory. The masks are for health, social care and other key workers across the UK.

Our School of Engineering is working with Welsh Government and Welsh industrial partners to develop and test new Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) masks. They are also working with the School of Pharmacy on disinfection and reuse of PPE, and with Public Health Wales to support testing.

Ultrasound training technology developed by Intelligent Ultrasound Group – a Cardiff University spinout - is being used at the NHS Nightingale hospital in London. They have repurposed its BodyWorks Eve ultrasound training simulator to help clinicians learn how to scan lungs in the fight against coronavirus (COVID-19). The Group previously developed and released in record time the free coronavirus (COVID-19) lung ultrasound module for use in hospitals around the world, including the emergency simulation centre at the NHS Nightingale Hospital in London.

Cardiff University School of Dentistry
Cardiff University School of Dentistry is located at the Heath Park campus.

Repurposing our buildings

The ground floor of our Dental Hospital at the Heath Park Campus is being used by the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (CVUHB) to increase its emergency case handling capacity.

In addition, the fourth floor of our Cochrane Building is being repurposed into a training facility for NHS staff. This will provide training on use of personal protective equipment equipment (PPE). Our Tŷ Dewi Sant building has also been made available to Cardiff and Vale UHB as a space for further training.

In response to a request to support future contingency plans being made by the Welsh NHS, we have offered to make some of our student accommodation available for NHS staff.

Research and expertise

Researchers with expertise in relevant fields are being made available for media comment or to advise government and politicians. Doing so will allow both the public and key stakeholders to benefit from their research experience and expertise.

Our research experts are also supporting the efforts of the UK authorities in a number of other ways:

Developing e-voucher scheme for vulnerable groups

Our academics have collaborated with Asda, Tesco and M&S to provide food and essential items through a unique e-voucher scheme for vulnerable social groups including women, Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, and refugees in Cardiff. This was vital during lockdown but can be scaled up in any post-COVID recession where unemployment and job loss is likely to be higher in those groups.

Providing expert advice to government

Analysts in the Wales Centre for Public Policy have supported the First Minister’s Expert Advisory Group with briefing papers on matters such as economic and social recovery, and how to support groups hardest-hit by recession.

Switching from cancer research to help develop vaccine

Dr Alan Parker
Dr Alan Parker

A team of our scientists has switched from researching cancer to work that could help towards a vaccine for coronavirus (COVID-19). The team at the School of Medicine usually work on reprogramming viruses so they can target and kill cancer - but are now focusing their efforts to help in the fight against coronavirus (COVID-19).

Dr Alan Parker and his team, whose work on cancer is funded by Cancer Research UK, are drawing on their expertise in viruses to seek out “tools” which could be used to deliver a vaccine.

Mapping the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19)

We are one of a number of academic institutions supporting a new genome sequencing consortium to map the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). The COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) is delivering large scale, rapid sequencing of the cause of the disease and sharing intelligence with hospitals, regional NHS centres and the UK Government.

By looking at the whole virus genome in people who have had confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), scientists can monitor changes in the virus at a national scale to understand how the virus is spreading and whether different strains are emerging. This will help clinical care of patients and save lives.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) in pregnancy

Our Centre for Trials Research (CTR) is collaborating with Imperial College London to establish a global registry of those affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) in pregnancy. The CTR will host the PAN-COVID online database of women with suspected and confirmed coronavirus from early pregnancy to after delivery of the baby.

Recording the impact on children

Children’s experiences of life during the COVID-19 pandemic are being investigated. The study, by Dr Justin Spinney and Dr Matluba Khan of Cardiff University and Muntazar Monsur of Texas Tech University, aims to find out what kinds of
activities children and young people have been doing during the pandemic and how they adjusted to the huge changes brought on by the lockdown.

Gauging UK public attitudes and responses

One of the first research projects aimed at monitoring UK public attitudes and responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is being launched in Cardiff. Experts at Cardiff University and Cardiff Metropolitan University are urging people from across the UK to take part in an online survey.

The wide-ranging questionnaire asks how much impact people feel the pandemic is having on their lives, and what they think about the way the government and health services are responding. The researchers hope up to 10,000 people will take part - and those organising the frontline response will get early access to the reports to help inform the measures they are taking.

When Should I Worry? website

Medical researchers at the University’s PRIME Centre set up the When Should I Worry? website, to provide information for parents about the management of respiratory tract infections (coughs, colds, sore throats, and ear aches) in children. Recently, it helped a mother of a young baby to spot symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Developing treatment trials

Our Centre for Trials Research at our Heath Park Campus is in discussions about developing treatment trials to support primary care to prevent mild coronavirus (COVID-19) from becoming more serious, and in secondary care to treat serious and critical coronavirus (COVID-19) patients.

A survey of all nurses in the UK

Developing a project to survey all nurses in the UK, via the Royal College of Nursing Research Society. This includes Registered Nurses, Students and Heath Care Support Workers. It asks about working conditions, wellbeing, safety equipment availability
and other issues.

Use of lung ultrasound

A Cardiff University-led review is being used globally to inform pioneering use of lung ultrasound to help in the management of patients with coronavirus (COVID-19). The academics were the first to summarise early evidence on ultrasound imaging – more commonly used in pregnancy or for muscle injury – and how to use it to assess and monitor lung damage.

Using our archives

Our Library Service has extracted a range of academic research papers on blood plasma treatments from our archives. These are being used to assess the potential issues and outcomes from the earliest pandemic plasma treatment work for influenza. The papers have been used by Welsh Government and Cardiff and Vale health board together with other data for clinical assessment by the Plasma Treatment Trial Team at the University Hospital Wales.

A Cardiff University-led review has called for urgent research into whether readily available mouthwash could be effective in reducing coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission.

Insights into the situation for horticultural businesses in Wales

Our researchers have given insights into the situation for horticultural businesses in Wales. The research demonstrated that most growers experienced sudden and dramatic increases in demand for their produce, which has continued beyond an
initial phase of panic buying. There is also a clear willingness and potential to increase fruit and vegetable production in Wales, but most growers lack the resources to achieve this, particularly at short notice.

Recording the impact on creative freelancers in Wales

Creative Cardiff has published a survey – COVID-19 Self-Employment Income Support Scheme: How will it help creative  freelancers in Wales? – which examines the impact of the pandemic on creative freelancers and the extent to which the UK Government’s scheme will mitigate this impact. The report draws on survey responses from 237 creative freelancers from across Wales.

Supporting our students

Female student sat on the bed in her student accommodation talking on a mobile phone.
We are calling students twice a week as part of our check-in service.

We have launched a check-in service where students receive a call twice a week from our team of over 200 staff volunteers. We make sure that students are getting all the support that they need and direct them to further guidance as required. We can also identify concerns and refer issues to our Student Occupational Health and Student Wellbeing teams for follow up.

We prioritise calls to students staying in our halls of residence and self-isolating or those who have additional underlying health and/or wellbeing concerns. We will also call students who are staying in other types of accommodation in Cardiff.

These calls also help us to improve our online guidance and information for students.

Supporting a continuation of learning

Post-16 learners

We have provided over 60 bilingual digital resources for post-16 learners who suddenly find themselves unable complete their
studies and sit their exams. These are available via the Welsh Government’s digital educational platform Hwb.

Family learning

As part of its Royal Academy of Engineering funded Ingenious project, the School of Engineering is developing a range of activities to support Girlguiding groups and family learning in the home.

Our Pharmabees project gave away around 200 free packets of wildflower seeds to primary school children to plant in Cathays as part of a Rewilding Cardiff project.  Children learned about wildflowers, biodiversity, and the importance of pollinators and how they are helping scientists find new antibiotics. The project wanted to use lockdown to develop the next generation of Welsh scientists and boost the city’s greenery.

Community learning

Free Continuous Professional Development courses were offered in June with over 30 virtual sessions including webinars, Q&As and other content from academics across the University available for anyone to access.

Supporting local communities

A group of staff, along with members of the local community in Roath and Cathays, have set up a new community newsletter to offer an alternative news source to those who may be isolating with limited access to the internet or social media.

Welsh language events

We have continued to engage with young people at Welsh language events as part of the first ever digital Maes T at the Urdd, providing opportunities to young people and parents to access our Welsh language outreach provision, speak with our staff and hear from our students.