Thousands of new NHS reservists will be recruited to support the health service as staff tackle COVID-19 backlogs, the head of the NHS announced today.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive urged the public to enlist as an NHS reservist, with a wide range of opportunities available, including assisting people who are being discharged from hospital or as part of the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Anyone can register their interest through a new website, launching today, including people who are interested in embarking on a career in the NHS or former staff who might want to return.
Local hospitals and NHS services can then call on the ‘NHS reservist community’ depending on their staffing requirements and pressures in their area, creating a bank extra resource for when it is needed.
Since its initial pilot launch at five sites last year, more than 17,000 people have joined up.
No previous experience is necessary with full training provided and NHS reservists will be paid in line with the role they are doing. Support will also be provided by existing full-time staff that they can ‘buddy up’ with before starting any role.
Latest figures show there are more than 1.3 million people working for the NHS in England, almost 50,000 more than the previous year. This includes over 21,000 more professionally qualified clinical staff.
Speaking at the annual Nuffield Trust health summit today, Amanda Pritchard said: “Along with the whole country, NHS staff have had a challenging few years – they have worked incredibly hard to care for over 600,000 people in hospital with COVID, kept routine services going for people who needed them and helped the entire country get back to normal with the successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
“Their outstanding work has rightly inspired thousands of people who want to join us in delivering care for millions of people, which is why we are introducing this new drive for NHS reservists.
“Reservists will help us in our time of need but also help those who want a rewarding career in the health service – the roles are flexible and can fit around your lifestyle.
“The challenges for the NHS are far from over – and as we now pull out all the stops to recover services, we once again need the public’s support.
“So if you want to help your community by helping your local NHS – search NHS Reservists today – your NHS needs you”.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Former healthcare workers coming out of retirement played a vital role in the national mission to roll out vaccines, as did the many selfless volunteers who came forward to support the NHS.
“We want to build on this invaluable resource as recover and reform, which is why we’re now recruiting an army of NHS reservists. If you want to help the NHS care for patients and tackle the COVID backlog please sign up today”.
Frank Shannon from Norwich has been inspired by what he has seen from NHS staff over the last two years and joined up to one of the pilot Reserve programmes.
A RAF veteran and qualified nurse, Frank has been completing two or three shifts a week at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital ever since joining the programme.
Frank has been helping with the vaccination programme by preparing the vaccines before they are administered.
He said: “The support has been excellent and well organised, and we have been provided with all the training required through a combination of online modules and practical life support training in person.
“I was delighted to have the opportunity to support wherever I could. It has been very rewarding to be part of the team and hope to be so for some time yet.
“All health care personnel have an inner drive and motivation to help people. I just wanted to do my bit, help out in any way, not let my clinical skills go to waste, and be part of a team again”.
Emma Holmes, a retail worker of 25 years became a reservist after being furloughed, helping with the NHS’ vaccination drive at her local vaccine centre.
Emma said: “I thought it was a really good opportunity to support with the COVID situation while gaining different skills, and hopefully helping me go through to a different route in my career.
“There were lots of opportunities to help in different roles which meant I could try out different areas in the NHS to find out where my skills were most suited”.
Professor Em Wilkinson-Brice, Deputy Chief People Office for the NHS said: “The whole country is massively indebted to the hard work of NHS staff over the last two years and there is no better way to show your appreciation than stand side by side with health service colleagues as a reservist.
“By joining the reservists at this most vital of times, not only will you be stepping up to support your NHS, you will also be joining the most passionate and rewarding teams in the world”.