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Imperial College transforms halls of residence into accommodation for NHS volunteers

@ImperialCollege London has opened up its halls of residence at Wilson House to #NHS volunteers in need of a place to stay during the #COVID_19 crisis.

Students coming out of Wilson House building

As part of the national effort to help the NHS during the pandemic, Imperial has provided over 300 bed spaces at Wilson House, one of the College’s largest halls of residence, just a few minutes’ walk from St Mary’s Campus. The accommodation will help Imperial’s newly qualified medics who are now volunteering in the NHS to support frontline staff.

Students stepping up

young man smiles at cameraImperial’s student community has also stepped up to support the handover.

Ali Abdall-Razak, a final year Medicine student who has just qualified as a doctor, has been setting up the accommodation for volunteers. Having finished his exams, Ali explains that he wanted to help the NHS and empower other students.

He said: “I think a lot of Medicine students felt slightly helpless as we weren’t immediately able to help after finishing our degrees. It’s why I decided to do a Medicine degree – in a situation like this, I want to use my skills to help in any way I can and have a direct impact on our world, and I was eager to get out and help.”

Ali has been busy allocating rooms to NHS volunteers and working with Imperial College School of Medicine Student Union to arrange transport options. With face-to-face demonstrations no longer an option, Ali has also produced a fire induction safety video and an induction document to help volunteers feel secure in their new surroundings.

“A mammoth task”

Before students started volunteering to support the accommodation handover, they were treated to pizza by Professor Mary Morrell, Professor of Sleep & Respiratory Physiology, and Martin Lupton, Vice-Dean (Education).

“I’ve been in constant communication with Imperial College School of Medicine Volunteers, led by Professor Mary Morrell, to understand the number of students signing up to volunteer who needed accommodation and help to move in,” Ali said. “It has been a mammoth task and a lot has happened in a short space of time, but we now have just under 30 people living in the accommodation and another 60-70 volunteers due to move in by the end of April.”

“I want to extend a huge thank you to our residents whose support and flexibility allowed this to happen, alongside everyone across the College who has worked tirelessly to support this huge undertaking.” said Paul NokeHead of Residential Services and Support Operations.

Students sit on sofas eating food

Ali has also been arranging lunch for the volunteers, so they have “one less thing to worry about.” He added: “We’ve even had a local hotel offer to donate food for us – they recently came over with fresh lasagne, pasta and cake for us all to enjoy!

“It has been a genuine pleasure to have such a large impact and help people get accommodation so close to St Mary’s Hospital,” Ali reflects. “I want to thank Paul Noke, Carlos Lozano Velasco, Jane Neary and John Field for their help, and the students who have had to move elsewhere in Wilson House for their patience and understanding during this time.

“The volunteers can now travel to the hospital quicker knowing that they aren’t risking the lives of any vulnerable family or friends they were otherwise living with. I can now look forward to going on the frontline myself.”

Paul Noke, Head of Residential Services and Support Operations, said:

“Over the previous weeks, parts of our Wilson House halls of residence have been repurposed to provide around 300 bed spaces for NHS volunteers on the frontline of the COVID-19 response. I want to extend a huge thank you to our residents whose support and flexibility allowed this to happen, Francesco Restuccia and his Wardening team, and everyone across the College who has worked tirelessly to support this huge undertaking.”

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