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The NHS has thanked the public for the “extraordinary response” after more than 650,000 signed up to volunteer in the UK’s fight against coronavirus.
Chief executive Sir Simon Stevens suggested there would be as many volunteers as there were health workers at the current sign-up rate, with 660,680 people so far applying join in.
During the NHS England board meeting – which was conducted over the phone – members heard that an additional 15,000 retired doctors, nurses and other former healthcare professionals had accepted the call-to-arms to help in the crisis.
“The response we are seeing from the public to join us in our country’s greatest time of need is extraordinary, and on behalf of everyone working in the NHS, I would like to thank each and every person who has signed up to volunteer – you will be, without a shadow of a doubt, helping us to save lives,” Sir Simon said.
Jacqui Hargrave is one of the thousands of people who signed up after coronavirus meant she was not able to work (PA)
“These are uncertain times for all of us, but they have shown the kindness of our country, and have highlight once again just how much people value the health service and every single person working in it.
“And to anyone else considering joining the ranks of our new volunteer army: the NHS is always there for you, and now is your time to be there for us, and for each other too.”
Events coordinator Owen Lloyd from east London decided to help after seeing his NHS friends under strain (PA)
National medical director Professor Stephen Powis updated the board on how many former professionals had stepped up to offer their support.
“I’m delighted again, bowled over, that so far over 15,000 of those staff have stepped forward to say they would like to come back,” he said.
Tax manager Lisa O’Hare, 44 had signed up to help the NHS around working from home (PA)
“That’s about a third doctors, a third nurses, and a third allied healthcare professionals and others.
“We would like some more to come forward.
“The more nurses who will come back and offer their support in a wide variety of places the better, so a call-to-arms again. A call-to-arms specifically to nurses.”
Sir Simon said the pandemic had put an extraordinary strain on the NHS but that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, with it potentially forcing improvements.
He added that he did think the NHS had ever seen anything quite like this since it was created.
“London hospitals and emergency services came together in the Second World War but the reality is now that is now playing out in all services across all parts of the country,” he stated.
“So I think this is a unique moment in the history of the NHS.
“It’s obviously putting a great pressure on our frontline staff who have responded brilliantly but it’s also driving a lot of changes that may turn out to be very desirable changes, so there will be a silver lining to this very difficult set of circumstances.”