LONDON – Government seeks 250,000 NHS volunteer force

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Tuesday (24 March) the creation of a new 250,000-strong corps of “NHS Volunteer Responders”, tasked with bringing essential supplies to the most vulnerable people being “shielded” at home, in a series of steps to help prevent the National Health Service from being overwhelmed by coronavirus cases in the coming weeks.

With the government bracing for a sharp increase in confirmed cases in the coming days, Hancock told a video conference that healthcare staff numbers would be boosted by 2,660 retired doctors and 6,147 retired nurses who have agreed to return to work. More than 18,700 student nurses and 5,500 final year medical students will also join the NHS workforce, the health secretary added.

Meanwhile, the government has moved to make the ExCeL Centre in East London the first makeshift field hospital to treat patients suffering from the virus. The exhibition centre, which hosted the G20 emergency meeting in 2009 at the height of the financial crisis, will be the site of NHS Nightingale and will initially hold 500 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen.

(Benjamin Fox |

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