Thousands of international nurses 'lined up' to join NHS ahead of second wave

20 September 2020, 07:54 | Updated: 20 September 2020, 09:42

Thousands of international nurses are being lined up to help the NHS
Thousands of international nurses are being lined up to help the NHS. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Thousands of international nurses are reportedly lined up to join the NHS as England's chief nurse outlined plans to spend up to £180 million to boost numbers ahead of a second wave of coronavirus.

Ruth May said that 6,500 nurses were "on the order book" to join the health service, with almost two dozen travelling from India in the past two weeks.

Ms May told the news site that 2,500 retired nurses who rejoined to help during the first stage of the pandemic were being supported to stay on, as the health service aims to prevent operations being cancelled this winter.

She told the Independent: "Nurses were at the forefront of the Covid-19 response, they have worked so hard.

"The public have seen the breadth and depth of what nurses and midwives can do. I know they will, as a profession, step up yet again for the challenging few months we'll no doubt have.

"We will no doubt see that nurses will be in the forefront of the response during winter, and that's exactly why we want more nurses, that's why we're asking people to join our profession. We don't just want people to clap for nurses, we want people to become a nurse."

The Department of Health and Social Care has provided £28 million to boost international nurse recruitment, while hospitals have £150 million to spend on existing nurses to boost their training and keep them in the health service, the Independent reported.

In a statement from the NHS, Ms May added: "This international recruitment fund will help NHS organisations pay for additional costs incurred because of Coronavirus, including accommodation, flights and quarantine."

The NHS said a £1.7 million fund had also been established to help regional nursing teams recruit health care support staff in NHS organisations with the highest vacancy rates.

There are now 302,293 nurses in England after more than 13,442 nurses joined the NHS in the 12 months to May this year, the service said, adding there had been a 22 per cent increase in applications for nursing degrees in that period.

It comes as Boris Johnson announced that people who fail to self-isolate when required will receive fines of up to £10,000 under emergency plans drawn up to fight the surge in coronavirus cases.

Those on low incomes and benefits will also be eligible for “stay at home” incentive payments of £500 to cover lost earnings for having to quarantine. 

The fines, set to come into force under law in England from 28 September, will start at £1,000, rising to £10,000 for repeat offenders. 

Ministers are in discussion with the devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland about extending the significant powers UK-wide.

Announcing the sweeping new “carrot and stick” package, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The best way we can fight this virus is by everyone following the rules and self-isolating if they’re at risk of passing on coronavirus.

“And so nobody underestimates just how important this is, new regulations will mean you are legally obliged to do so if you have the virus or have been asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace.

“People who choose to ignore the rules will face significant fines. We need to do all we can to control the spread of this virus, to prevent the most vulnerable people from becoming infected, and to protect the NHS and save lives.”

Police will check compliance in Covid-19 hotspots and among groups considered to be “high-risk” as well as following up reports from neighbours with suspicions.

Those contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to self-isolate for being contacts of someone infected with Covid-19 also face the fines for falling foul of the rules. 

Mr Johnson warned on Friday the UK is “now seeing a second wave” of Covid-19, adding it was “inevitable” that it would arrive. 

As infections spiral, he is said to be considering announcing fresh national curbs as early as next week.