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Nearly 15,000 student nurses, midwives and medical students are poised to join frontline NHS teams as part of the nationwide coronavirus fightback.
More than 12,000 second and final year nursing and midwifery students and 2,213 medical students have so far enrolled to provide care and support, with the first of these now beginning to take up roles on the front line.
England’s top nurse and doctor today commended students’ “life-saving” actions in joining a growing ‘NHS Army’, providing support to qualified and experienced experts on the frontline of care.
The influx of students boosting the workforce follows a plea from senior nurses for medics-in-training to join the growing ranks of staff helping the public to stay well.
The newcomers to the profession will join more than 15,000 retired medics who recently left the health and care service but are returning to the fold, and volunteer members of the public who are doing tasks like delivering medicines and driving patients to and from hospitals.
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, today met staff looking after coronavirus patients in the intensive care units and respiratory wards at Kings College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London. He also spent time with student nurses, midwives and doctors who have this week just begun their NHS careers so as to care for coronavirus patients.
He said: “Across the country nearly 15,000 student nurses and midwives and medical students are stepping up to serve in the fight against coronavirus.
“They will work alongside our brilliant current staff and the thousands of dedicated former colleagues who have answered the call to come out of retirement.
“So members of the NHS family past, present and future are uniting to tackle coronavirus.
“Today we want to say particular thanks to the new generation of NHS staff who are starting their careers early to play their part.”
“These students are beginning their careers as the NHS faces the greatest global health challenge in the history of the health service.
“Their commitment to the NHS and all it stands for is as great as that of any previous generation, and the whole country will be both grateful and proud.”
Other second and third year university students in healthcare subjects – including dietitians, physiotherapists and radiographers – are also being called to serve on the front line.
Students will work in hospitals and other healthcare settings across England, matching their skills to meet staff needs in their local area. The plans also mean that students in their final year will be able to graduate at the end of the academic year as normal, ensuring more qualified professionals are available in future.
First-year nursing, midwifery and medical students will continue with their studies, but will focus on academic work if clinical placements need to be paused to prioritise managing immediate care needs.
The recruitment plans are part of extensive work to prepare the NHS to provide expert care for the likely health effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Latest figures show that 12,083 nursing and midwifery students and 2,213 medical students have enrolled early.
Chief nursing officer for England, Ruth May, said: “It was the best decision of my life to become a nurse and these inspirational students are kicking off their career in the most extraordinary and impressive way imaginable.
“Since the NHS’ founding, nurses have been the bedrock of people’s health care and I cannot thank this next generation of nurses enough for giving their all to the NHS and our patients, even as they continue to learn and develop at the start of their career.”
NHS medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, said: “The coronavirus pandemic is the great healthcare challenge in the history of the NHS and to have our ranks of expert staff boosted with tomorrow’s generation of lifesavers is an important gain for patients and NHS staff alike.
“The public will rightly want to pay tribute to these up and coming nurses, doctors and medics and the best way that people can show their appreciation is to follow government advice and stay at home, to stop this virus spreading further.”
On 27 March 2020, Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England and Deputy Chief Nurse, Mark Radford, wrote to all nursing and midwifery students to set out their options for using their education programme to support NHS services and the fight against Covid-19.
The letter outlines how student nurses and midwives at the latter stages of their training can combine a training placement with a paid NHS role, with options varying depending on the student’s stage of study.