Hundreds of medical students from the West Country are being fast-tracked to the hospital frontline to help in the fight against coronavirus.

Around 220 medics from the University of Bristol and more than 50 from the University of Exeter have qualified early and will be taking up posts as doctors in hospitals across the region shortly.

Alongside this 138 undergraduate students from the University of Gloucestershire have stepped forward to help hospitals and other NHS services. The students are all studying towards their adult or mental health nursing degrees.

More than 300 medical students are stepping forward to help on the frontlines in NHS hospitals and services.

Given social distancing rules, Bristol's graduation ceremony today (Friday) will, for the first time, happen online with students logging on from home.

Molly Dineen, 24, was on a two-month medical placement in New York until the invitation to help came and she was back on a flight home after just two weeks

You don't plan for your first day as a junior doctor to be in the middle of a pandemic but it's the same for everyone and I"m just going into it prepared for surprises.

Molly Dineen, Exeter University Medical School
Molly Dineen was just two weeks into a two-month medical placement in New York when she chose to come back and help.

Molly expects to be working first at the Royal Cornwall Hospital before transferring to Exeter.

I knew instinctively I wanted to help. With the skills I have I'm lucky to be able to help with what I've been taught over the last six years. I felt ready so for me it was a relatively easy decision.

Molly Dineen, Exeter University Medical School

With up to one in every four doctors and nurses expected to be off sick or self-isolating the appeal for those who've just qualified could make a vital difference.

Ben Turner is one of those graduating early from Bristol Medical School.

Ben Turner, from the Bristol Medical School, was also happy to help.

"There is an overwhelming feeling from the cohort of wanting to help our doctor colleagues," he explains.

"It is a bit unnerving and when you hear about the state of the personal protective equipment in the NHS that obviously does create some concerns but we have to take solace from the government saying all hospitals will be taking delivery of new PPE.

"We've had a lot of training to care for people properly so we're hopefully at no greater increased risk."

You start to think 'am I ready for this' but six years of training is long enough and the medical school has been fantastic in their support, going through simulation exercises online to help us.

Ben Turner, Bristol Medical School

Head of the Bristol Medical School, Prof Ashley Blom, conceded the new starters, like all healthcare professionals, will be at a greater risk of infectious diseases.

"We're incredibly grateful to the new young doctors and nurses joining the workforce," he added.

"A new job in medicine is very daunting, particularly at these times but our NHS partners are working very hard to make sure they're well cared for and well supervised and the university will be doing the same."