The Government is considering introducing the emergency registration of retired nurses and other health professionals as part of its ‘battle plan’ against coronavirus.
Latest official figures show 115 people have now tested positive for coronavirus in the UK and one person has died.
Health secretary Matt Hancock announced last weekend that the next phase of the Government’s response to the virus could see broader measures introduced to ‘relieve pressure on the NHS’.
‘Staff rostering changes may be necessary, including calling leavers and retirees back to duty,’ stated the action plan, set out earlier this week.
The introduction of emergency indemnity coverage for health care professionals ‘to provide care or diagnostic services’ is also being considered, the Department for Health and Social Care said.
However, nursing leaders warned that there might not be enough time to train returning staff, such as retired nurses brought into tackle coronavirus.
RCN director of nursing policy and practice Susan Masters said: ‘As the plan acknowledges, some nursing staff will inevitably be affected by the virus. With the right safety measures and regulation, retired nurses could provide important support for staff currently working in the NHS and social care services.
‘But senior nurses already spend a great deal of time supervising and mentoring more junior colleagues and nursing students, so the issue will be whether they have the capacity to extend this to returning retired staff. Any legislation being considered will need to be carefully scrutinised to ensure that safety for patients and healthcare staff is the priority.’
The Government’s battle plan comes as it prepares for up to a fifth of the UK’s workforce to be off at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said: ‘I fully understand public concern, your concern, about the global spread of this virus. And it is highly likely that we will see a growing number of UK cases.
‘And that’s why keeping the country safe is the government’s overriding priority. And our plan means we’re committed to doing everything possible based on the advice of our world leading scientific experts to prepare for all eventualities.’