The NHS’ “reservist” volunteer scheme is set to be rolled out nationwide this year, expanding to 20,000 volunteers recruited.
Pilot tests of the NHS Reserve Programme have seen 17,000 reservists recruited already, while 3,000 more are in the process of being recruited.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid said the programme had seen thousands of former NHS staff offer their support for the scheme.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have worked with the NHS to boost capacity and ensure we have the right people with the right skills in the right places,” he said.
“We’ve seen thousands of former NHS staff step up and offer their support, including to our vaccination effort and our national mission to Get Boosted Now, with around 17,000 reservists signed up and 3,000 more being recruited.
“The NHS Reserve Programme gives us a great new way to draw on experience and skills to support our brilliant staff and we will be rapidly expanding in the New Year.
“If you want to help, keep an eye out for opportunities and thanks to everyone who has stepped up during a time of true national emergency.”
Volunteers with both clinical and non-clinical experience are being recruited, with some needed to support the rollout of the Booster programme, while others will provide logistics or IT support.
Mr Javid said that the recruits had made “a real difference”.
The news comes following reports of serious staffing shortages in the NHS, with The Sunday Times reporting that United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust had declared a “critical incident” with “extreme and unprecedented” staff shortages resulting in “compromised care”.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, told the BBC: “We’re seeing increasing staff absences, and that’s coming on top of a very significant amount of wider pressure.”
And on Sunday, Health Minister Ed Argar said the Government was “doing the responsible and sensible thing” by asking the public sector to prepare for a worst-case scenario of up to a quarter of staff off work.