Urgent appeal for army of 250,000 volunteers to boost NHS during coronavirus crisis

24 March 2020, 17:16 | Updated: 24 March 2020, 21:04

By Kate Buck

The government has announced an urgent appeal to recruit a quarter of a million volunteers to work for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock made the announcement just hours after it was confirmed the UK death toll from Covid-19 reach 422.

Mr Hancock said: "I know how worried people are and while this is a great time of turbulence, it is a moment too that the country can come together in that national effort.

"As the next step in that effort, today we launch NHS volunteers. We are seeking a quarter of million volunteers - people in good health - to help the NHS, for shopping, in delivery of medicines and to support those who are shielded to protect their own health."

If you would like to offer your services to the NHS, click the link HERE.

The government previously appealed for retired NHS workers to rejoin to tackled the virus, with 11,778 answering that call and returning to work.

They included 2,660 doctors, more than 2,500 pharmacists and other staff and 6,147 nurses.

"I pay tribute to each and every one of those who is returning to the NHS at its hour of need," Mr Hancock said.

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Matt Hancock has announced an appeal for a quarter of a million volunteers to work for the NHS
Matt Hancock has announced an appeal for a quarter of a million volunteers to work for the NHS. Picture: PA

5,500 final year medics and 18,700 final year student nurses will also take up their posts within the NHS this week in an effort to boost support for the health system.

Mr Hancock also announced that the London Excel Centre will be turned into a new hospital, the NHS Nightingale, to help treat up to 4,000 patients struck down by the virus.

Mr Hancock said: "We will, next week, open a new hospital - a temporary hospital - the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the Excel centre in London.

"The NHS Nightingale Hospital will comprise two wards, each of 2,000 people.

"With the help of the military and with NHS clinicians we will make sure that we have the capacity that we need so that everyone can get the support that they need."

The latest announcements come the day after the Prime Minister placed the country on lockdown in an effort to halt the spread of Covid-19.

Boris Johnson last night announced the new measures included groups of more than two being banned from gathering in public.

Shops deemed non-essential have also been ordered to close, and workers have been told to work from home unless it is "essential" they go into work.

Police have been granted powers to enforce these rules, and can issue fines and disperse groups of people.

The Health Secretary warned that enforcement action will be taken against businesses who remain open despite being ordered to close.

Outlining the new rules, Mr Hancock: "It is stay at home unless you've got a good reason and we will also enforce those rules.

"If you are in a workplace that we have said will close then we are going to enforce against those closures as well."

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