The UK’s NHS (National Health Service) has enlisted easyJet and Virgin Atlantic employees to work alongside NHS clinicians at the new Nightingale hospitals set up across the country as part of the fight against coronavirus. Many airline staff are first aid trained or hold other clinical qualifications as well as being security cleared, while NHS clinicians will oversee their work – with expert training provided to all new recruits when they sign-up.
The airlines are asking staff who have not been working since the Covid-19 pandemic grounded some aircraft to consider helping the thousands of doctors, nurses and other medics at the new hospitals. Support workers will work alongside experienced clinicians, changing beds, doing other non-clinical tasks and helping doctors and nurses working on the wards.
EasyJet has already written to all 9,000 of its UK-based staff, which includes 4,000 cabin crew who are trained in CPR, while Virgin Atlantic will write to approximately 4,000 of its employees from Monday (30 March), prioritising those with the required skills and training.
Those who sign up will perform support roles, under the close instruction of nurses and senior clinicians on the wards at the NHS Nightingale Hospitals across the UK. The NHS has confirmed that the new hospitals are being built in London, Birmingham and Manchester and other sites are being considered should the need arise.
Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England said, “Nurses, doctors and other vital health and social care staff are working day and night to provide the best possible care to patients as the NHS continues to fight this global health pandemic.
“The NHS is mobilising like never before, but the scale of this challenge has not been seen in peacetime so we need all the support we can get. Thousands of nurses, medics and other expert staff are returning to work alongside us, but we need everyone to do their bit – whether that is working in one of our current health or social care services, working in a Nightingale Hospital, volunteering to help the NHS or following government advice to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”
St John Ambulance is supplying hundreds of volunteers to help staff the first Nightingale hospital at the ExCeL centre in London.
Tina Milton, director of cabin services for easyJet said: “The NHS is at the forefront of dealing with this health emergency, but the training and skills our cabin crew have, working closely with the medical professionals, could help make a real difference.”
Corneel Koster, Chief Customer Officer at Virgin Atlantic added, “We are very grateful to the NHS for everything they are doing in extremely challenging circumstances and we’re committed to doing all we can to support the national effort against the rapid acceleration of Covid-19.
“We are very proud of our highly skilled people at Virgin Atlantic and since the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was announced, we have been inundated with our employees looking to help other organisations at this time of crisis. The NHS approached us with this unique opportunity as they recognise the value and experience our medically trained cabin crew and trainers will bring to the incredible Nightingale Hospital initiative. In addition, our cargo business is very busy with extra flights, keeping global supply chains running and transporting essential medical supplies into the UK at this time.”
Staff and volunteers working at the new hospitals will also be offered free accommodation. Those staying in the hotels will have breakfast provided, and lunch or dinner, depending on the shifts that they are working.