'The NHS needs you' former medics called back amid coronavirus crisis

20 March 2020, 08:34 | Updated: 20 March 2020, 08:44

NHS staff who have left within three years could be called back
NHS staff who have left within three years could be called back. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

More than 65,000 former nurses and doctors will today be told “the NHS needs you“, as a new recruitment drive gets underway to support the fight against coronavirus.

Retired NHS staff who have left the service in recent years have been asked to re-register and help the health service to tackle the “greatest global health threat” in a century, coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said some retired medics who return to work in the NHS to fight the coronavirus will be able to come "straight back in".

[LIVE NEWS: Friday's coronavirus news as it happens in our live feed]

The nation's chief nurse and top doctor have written to those who have left the healthcare profession within the last three years and who have up to date skills and experience to ask them to return.

Read more: Who is a key worker and what children are classed as vulnerable in UK school closures?

The plans are part of the extensive work to date to prepare the NHS to provide expert care for the likely health effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Final year medical students and student nurses are also being offered the chance to take temporary, fully-paid roles to boost the NHS frontline even further.

People vulnerable to coronavirus will not be expected to re-join.

Read more: Coronavirus and pregnant women: What is the official government advice?

Read more: Coronavirus: Beard sanitiser sales spike after NHS urged staff to shave

Ex-staff will be surveyed on what type of role they could take on, in the so called "NHS army", either via the phone on NHS 111 or face to face, and on how much time they can dedicate to dealing with the impact of the pandemic.

Staff will be able to ‘opt in’ to a register to fill a range of clinical and non-clinical roles across the NHS, based on their skills and time away from practice.

Read more: Coronavirus - Who should self-isolate and for how long?

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said some retired medics who return to work in the NHS to fight the coronavirus will be able to come "straight back in".

When asked by the BBC when workers could return to the NHS, he said: "Well, over the next couple of weeks because for some they'll have very recently left and they can come straight back in, their annual training's been up-to-date and they can just restart.

"Imagine if you've left at Christmas, for instance, you can restart straight away. For others who have been out for a little bit longer, they may need more of a refresher because, of course, it's vital that we keep people safe, that's the whole point of the NHS.

Read more: Coronavirus symptoms - What are they and what is the risk of Covid-19 in the UK?

"So the letter will go out today, we'll then be engaging individually with all those who respond and I very much hope that many, many thousands will respond.

"From those I've talked to, I think people can see just how important this is. The training will happen for those who need it over the next couple of weeks, at the same time we'll allocate people to a hospital near them because there's a logistical exercise here as well."

Read more: How long does Covid-19 live on surfaces? Is post from China safe?

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: “As the health service gears up to deal with the greatest global health threat in its history, my message to former colleagues is ‘Your NHS Needs You’.

“Our wonderful nurses in every corner of the country are preparing to change the way we work so that we can provide the right care for the rising numbers of people who will need it.

“But we can’t do it alone, so I am urging all recent former nurses to lend us your expertise and experience during this pandemic, because I have no doubt that you can help to save lives. And I’m grateful for senior students providing expert care in this time with their NHS colleagues.”

Read more: Coronavirus UK: Do surgical face masks work to avoid virus symptoms?

The Nursing and Midwifery Council is writing out to more than 50,000 nurses whose registration has lapsed in the last three years.

The General Medical Council will write to another 15,500 doctors who have left the register since 2017.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS, said: “Our hardworking NHS staff are working round the clock to get ready for the peak of the pandemic, and today we are calling on former staff to come back and help us.

“It is only right we use every means at our disposal to bolster the frontline in the face of this unprecedented challenge for the NHS.

“By offering to return to the NHS now, these thousands of well-qualified and compassionate people will make more of a difference than ever before – not just to patients, but to colleagues and the wider community.”

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