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Poster competition celebrates doctors' volunteering work

UK doctors and medical students give thousands of hours of their time each year voluntarily to provide invaluable services in this country and around the world.

Ian Wilson is BMA representative body chairThe BMA is celebrating the enormous variety and volume of voluntary work that doctors carry out with a poster competition offering two £750 cash prizes for the winning entries. 

Doctors from all grades and specialties have submitted posters for this year’s competition and a selection of the entries will appear on the BMA website after the ARM (annual representative meeting).

BMA representative body chair Ian Wilson says the response to the Doctors as Volunteers initiative shows the huge range of voluntary activities that UK doctors take part in across the world.

He adds: ‘As clinicians, we have a unique set of skills and expertise that can be used to help individuals and societies globally.

‘Medical volunteerism is invaluable in improving the health of some of the world’s poorest, as well as making a significant contribution to the profession.

‘Through sharing experiences, we hope we are able to encourage and inspire those considering volunteer work to take the next step.’

This year’s winners are Claire Ferraro, a junior doctor in London who works for King’s Health Partners, for her voluntary work in Sierra Leone, and Sheffield core trainee 1 in anaesthetics Faraaz de Belder for his work as a special constable. They will be presented with their prize money at the ARM.

Dr de Belder’s work is featured below, as are some of the other medical volunteers.

Carolyn Hore

London consultant paediatrician Carolyn Hore volunteers with Dreamflight, a charity that provides 10-day holidays in Florida theme parks for children who are chronically or terminally ill, or who are living with a disability.

Almost 200 children travel on each trip on a specially chartered British Airways Boeing 747. 

A mini-hospital is set up in the plane’s first-class area, all children receive 24-hour medical supervision and special seating systems are installed to ensure that even the most physically disabled children can travel.

The senior paediatricians, mostly consultants, who accompany the children are faced with unusual clinical decisions, such as whether a particular child can ride a particular rollercoaster, or how to keep a central line dry on a water ride.

The children on the trip are divided into groups of 16 on a regional basis, and each group has one doctor, three nurses and a physiotherapist assigned to care for them.

Dr Hore says the most difficult element for a Dreamflight doctor is being prepared for every medical eventuality for every child without 'medicalising' the trip.

She adds: ‘As a volunteer doctor, it is a demanding and responsibility-laden 10 days, but the ability to look after children in such a therapeutically different way is a privilege and is remarkably rewarding.'

As one of her volunteer doctor colleagues puts it: ‘It’s a rollercoaster of an experience in more ways than one. 

'You can be dressed as a banana one minute, and syringing in a fluid bolus while handing over a patient to four burly paramedics in a room at the Holiday Inn the next.’

Ayman Jundi

Lancashire consultant in emergency medicine Ayman Jundi volunteers with the SBMS (Syrian British Medical Society) to help coordinate healthcare inside Syria and for refugees escaping the country’s civil war.

Ayman Jundi posterThe society estimates that less than 30 per cent of Syria’s healthcare workforce remains in the country as a result of the fighting that began in 2011.

Volunteers run and staff 12 hospitals on the Syrian-Turkish border and in Syria itself. These include a maternity hospital and a trauma centre that treats more than 10,000 cases and performs more than 800 surgical procedures each month.

The services for patients necessarily focus on conflict-specific injuries, but the wider health needs of the local population cannot be ignored.

The SBMS helps to run 14 primary healthcare centres, with more planned. It also provides prosthetic limb clinics and an ophthalmic unit.

Led by specialist volunteers drawn from SBMS members, the prosthetic limb clinics have fitted 1,200 lower limbs and 250 upper limbs at no cost to patients, and the ophthalmic unit has treated more than 11,000 patients in little over a year.

Psychiatric and psychological support, particularly for children, is provided through mental health clinics, and the SBMS runs a pioneering ‘conflict zone surgery’ course in cooperation with the Red Cross and the Royal College of Surgeons.

Helena Wells

Birmingham medical student Helena Wells volunteers with MedMinds, an organisation set up by students at Birmingham University to deliver mental health education in schools.

Its goal is to increase schoolchildren’s understanding of mental health issues and broaden knowledge of psychiatry among medical students, with the possibility that more students may choose to specialise in the field.

Volunteer medical students receive seven evening training sessions from psychiatrists.

Two Birmingham secondary schools agreed to host the fun and interactive educational package, which was delivered by either two or three students to each class of 30 pupils.

In its first year, 60 medical students completed MedMinds training, with 36 students going on to teach in schools. 

Of the 450 schoolchildren who were taught via MedMinds, 67 per cent said their views on mental health had changed positively.

Meanwhile, of the medical students who took part, 60 per cent who were previously not planning to specialise in psychiatry said they were now considering a career in the specialty.

More local schools are to be approached to host MedMinds, and the Birmingham University medical student society will continue to fund the programme.

Faraaz de Belder 

Sheffield core trainee 1 in anaesthetics Faraaz de Belder spends much of his free time serving the public as a special constable with West Yorkshire Police.

There are almost 20,000 special constables working across all areas of policing in the UK. 

After passing their training and probationary periods, they carry out many of the same duties and have the same powers of arrest as full-time officers.

Dr de Belder says: ‘I started with six months’ training that I undertook at weekends and in the evenings, before being assigned a police station to work from. 

'You work through a two-year probation and once I was "signed off", I could patrol independently and drive police vehicles.

‘As a special constable, you work as a frontline police officer for a minimum of 16 hours a month, wearing the same uniform and working alongside your full-time colleagues. 

'On a shift as a special constable, I report to the duty sergeant, bring myself up to speed on the intelligence intranet and meet up with my colleague for the day.

'As with medicine, there’s no typical day and I could be making arrest inquiries on wanted criminals or attending a shoplifting shout.

'I’ve worked on public order at big events, and on 999 emergencies. There’s nothing better than driving on blue lights to an emergency call, knowing that you could actually make a difference to someone’s life.

'The biggest difference [from medicine] is that as a doctor you work in relatively safe and secure environments, and patients — on the whole — are looking for your help and assistance. 

'This isn’t always the case when policing, and I’ve learnt how to deal with conflict, aggression and grief in a way that is really helpful during my work as a doctor.

'Dealing with these situations has also done wonders for my confidence, mainly through sheer necessity.

'On a personal level, apart from the training and skills that I’ve gained, I’ve learnt lots about some of the problems affecting society that I wouldn’t necessarily have seen as a doctor or in my day-to-day life.

'I feel that special constables are key to successful community policing and they offer greater credibility to our justice system.

'If laws are applied by our fellow citizens who are volunteering their spare time to produce a safer society, this can only increase the level of respect for the law and the creation of a harmonious society.’

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