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Coronavirus: UK researchers and educators suggest recruitment and training programme for community healthcare workers could help the most vulnerable

An emergency programme to train thousands of community health workers could help vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new comment piece published in The Lancet.

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Elderly man receiving assistance during isolation
Elderly man receiving assistance during isolation

The authors, from Queen Mary University of London, Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, suggest a large-scale programme could train a workforce to help the estimated 1.5 million elderly and vulnerable people in the UK who may be in isolation for 12 weeks.

They propose an online-based learning programme could be used to train people at lower risk, such as healthy, symptomless adults between the ages of 18-30.      

Professor Anita Berlin, Professor of Primary Care Education at Queen Mary University of London, said “The government’s plans for mass testing and the launch of NHS Volunteers are steps in the right direction, however this health crisis requires a fully-funded and rapidly co-ordinated recruitment drive.”  

Coordinated response to solve healthcare issues

These rapidly trained community health workers (CHWs) could help the most vulnerable people in their homes, carrying out basic assessments and potentially provide support for widespread testing and community follow-up for COVID-19, as well as a long-term model of care in the UK.

Dr Matthew Harris, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said: “This crisis requires a coordinated, systematic, national response where CHWs that are trained to deal with testing, surveillance and active case finding can also support people in their homes with health and social care issues.”

Professor Berlin, added: “There will be many people from certain industries now seeking work and thousands of health professional students keen to use their know-how. By supporting those who are available into this much-needed service there is an opportunity to solve several problems simultaneously – with some longer term benefits for community care and professional training.”

Read the full comment piece online.

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