More than 65,000 former healthcare workers are being called on to help fight the ‘greatest global health threat’ in a century, in a desperate recruitment drive by the National Health Service.
Health bodies are writing out to those who have left their profession in the last three years with up to date skills and experience, asking them to return. People vulnerable to coronavirus will not be expected to re-join.
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.”
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.
Recent leavers, including retirees, will be surveyed on what type of role they could do, either over 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.
Those who join the ‘NHS army’ will be given a full induction and online training to help them to hit the ground running.
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.”
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said: “NHS and social care staff are doing an incredible job in the fight against coronavirus, and we want to ensure they are fully supported.
“To further boost the ranks of our NHS, we are now turning to people who have recently left the healthcare professions who can bring their experience and expertise to our health system.
“They can play a crucial role in maximising our capacity to fight this outbreak - and wherever they can help, they will be hugely welcomed.
“This continues to be a huge national effort to protect lives and protect our NHS, and I urge everyone to continue following the latest medical advice.”
The General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council, Health and Care Professions Council, and General Pharmaceutical Council will contact former NHS staff and other health and care staff across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the next few working days with more information.
Returners will receive a contract that reflects standard terms and conditions such as working hour protections, pay arrangements, and annual leave entitlement.
Hospitals across the country are taking a range of action to prepare, including freeing up 30,000 beds by postponing non-urgent operations and providing care in the community for those who are fit to be discharged, and finding up to 10,000 in independent and community hospitals