Virgin Atlantic and easyJet cabin crew are being recruited by the NHS to help staff the new Nightingale field hospitals set up as part of the UK’s battle against coronavirus.
The airlines are asking staff who have not been working since the Covid-19 pandemic started to ground planes to consider helping at the new hospitals being built in London, Birmingham and Manchester – with other sites being considered.
It is a voluntary opportunity offered to those furloughed throughout April and May – therefore they will still be getting paid by the airlines, with support from the government.
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 today (30 March), prioritising those with the required skills and training.
Those who sign up will receive expert training before performing clinical support roles, “under the close instruction of nurses and senior clinicians” on the wards at the NHS Nightingale hospitals across the country.
Support workers will change beds, tend to patients and assist doctors and nurses working on the wards.
Many airline staff are first aid trained or hold other clinical qualifications as well as being security cleared.
Staff and volunteers working at the new hospitals will be offered free accommodation. Those staying in the hotels will have breakfast provided and lunch or dinner depending on the shifts they are working.
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.”
St John Ambulance is supplying hundreds of volunteers to help staff the first Nightingale hospital at the ExCeL centre in London.
Corneel Koster, chief customer officer at Virgin Atlantic, said: “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.”
Tina Milton, director of cabin services for easyJet, added: “We have all needed the NHS at some point in our lives, and so we are so proud that our crew can now help to support the NHS at this crucial time.
“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.”
Virgin Atlantic added its cargo business was “very busy with extra flights”, keeping global supply chains running and transporting essential medical supplies into the UK.