Hands Up For Health

The Hands Up For Health project is an innovative outreach programme that introduces young people to careers in healthcare.

Students and volunteers working together as part of the Hands Up For Health
Students and volunteers working on the Hands Up For Health programme

Funded by generous donations, the project aims to address the impact of deprivation on the lives of people living in the local area. Rates of ill health in Lambeth and Southwark are worse than the national average and the number of 16 to 18-year-olds not in education, employment or training (NEETs) in the two boroughs is above both London and national averages.

Hands Up For Health collaborates with local education services to provide curriculum-based, practical education that aims to inspire local teenagers. As well as providing an introduction to healthcare careers, the project aims to encourage young people to think proactively about their health.

Hannah Matthews is head of Health and Social Care at City of London Academy and says that the programme has been invaluable to her and her students.

'Thanks to the range of activities and volunteers, my students' eyes are opened to the breadth of careers available in the NHS,' she says.

'The volunteers are fantastic with the students and show great enthusiasm for their work, which is infectious. After attending the programme, it is fantastic to see students develop ambitious goals for themselves, which encourages them to learn and to undertake further qualifications.'

A true-to-life experience

The project is based at St Thomas' Simulation and Interactive Learning (SaiL) Centres, which opened in 2010 to train NHS staff and students. The centres, funded by donations, feature a mock six-bed hospital ward, a consultation room and an operating theatre, which can also be used as an emergency room or intensive care unit.

In the Hands Up For Health scheme, real-life equipment, state-of-the-art technology and actors give teenagers from schools in Lambeth and Southwark the chance to learn valuable first aid skills and gain an insight into what it’s like working in healthcare.

Pupils use the same equipment that doctors and nurses use in their training, including surgical simulators and lifelike manikins that breathe, speak and even sweat.

‘I think the stress levels you get from managing a dummy are not that different from being in a similar scenario,’ says resuscitation officer and trainer Sonia Khemlyani.

‘Once you get drawn in, it is actually quite easy to forget that it is a dummy and you do what you would do with a real person.’

Young people get a real sense of what it's like to work in health and social care – and the experience helps to promote health, science and careers in healthcare among local pupils.

Danielle Nixon is a St Thomas' midwife and Hands Up For Health volunteer. ‘I have been involved in the HUFH programme as a volunteer since it first began but I am still overwhelmed by the positive impact that it has on the young people who attend.' she says.

'The programme allows the participants to explore scenarios which they wouldn't usually be exposed to to develop skills which are transferable to everyday tasks and situations they undertake.’


The pupils of Lambeth Academy, Clapham, had the Hands Up For Health experience last year. Leticia, 15, took part in an interactive scenario where she played a GP trying to discern the symptoms of a patient called Destiny, played by an actor.

‘It made me see that as a doctor, there’s much more to your role,’ she says. ‘It’s not just giving out prescriptions. I had to gain Destiny’s trust and pick up on the messages she was sending.’

Being able to act out scenarios in the healthcare profession really brings the experience alive for students.

‘There’s powerful learning to be had if you’ve got a patient in front of you and you are trying to help them,’ says Dr Beth Thomas, outreach programme manager.

This is something that Hannah Matthews wholeheartedly agrees with.

'The programme brings my subject to life!' she says.

'In the classroom we discuss in great depth the strategies – and importance – of effective communication but there is nothing like students having to counsel a rape victim to bring these issues into sharp focus. Students frequently refer back to the scenarios they encountered on the HUFH programme throughout their two years of study with me to understand and explain the course content.'

Inspiring young people

‘It’s a great day,’ says social science teacher Loraine Krishna. ‘It’s so hands-on and practical. It really opens up their career paths and the staff are absolutely fantastic.’

Hannah agrees.

'The course leaders and volunteers are utter professionals who really understand how to work with and motivate children,' she says. 'There is no other school trip or activity that I could organise that would come close to simulating the opportunities, challenges and excitement of careers in the life of the NHS.’

The project has had some great feedback from the students who have taken part: 

'It was fantastic to do. I really enjoyed everything I did. I learnt so much. I would love to do something like that again,' reported one of the students.
'All young people should get the experience of what it would be like to save a person's life. We all participated as a team and we listened to each other,' added another.
'I loved Hands Up For Health because it showed me there are so many jobs in healthcare. It also made me rethink what I want to be when I'm older.'

92% of those who have taken part said they would recommend Hands Up For Health to another person their age. And the programme could mean that many more young people decide to take up careers in healthcare.

‘At our last evaluation, we found a 40%increase in the young people who were now considering careers in healthcare after doing Hands Up For Health, which is fantastic,’ says Dr Thomas.

‘This programme is for every young person. Every one of them should be able to take something away.’

We need your support to keep projects like Hands Up For Health running.

Make a difference today