30 MARCH 2020
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At a time of national need easyJet and Virgin Atlantic have joined the NHS to supplement the workforce at the new Nightingale hospitals as part of the fight against coronavirus.
The airlines are asking staff who have not been working since the COVID-19 pandemic started to ground aircraft to consider assisting at the new medical centres being built across the country.
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 their employees from today (Monday 30 March), prioritising those with the required skills and training. EasyJet has limited services whilst Virgin is still flying from Heathrow T3 to Hong Kong, Los Angeles and New York.
Those who sign up will perform clinical support roles, under the close instruction of nurses and senior clinicians on the wards at the NHS Nightingale hospitals. The NHS has confirmed that they are being built in London, Birmingham and Manchester and other sites are being considered. Nightingale ExCel is in close proximity to London City Airport, and NEC adjoins Birmingham Airport.
Support workers will change beds, tend to patients and assist doctors and nurses working on the wards.
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 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 the Nightingale Hospital, volunteering to help the NHS or staying home to save lives.”
St John Ambulance are supplying hundreds of volunteers to help staff the first Nightingale hospital at the ExCeL centre in London.
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.
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.”
“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.
Tina Milton, director of cabin services for easyJet, said: "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.”
British Airways staff on furlough say that they too are keen to help. In the meantime the government has chartered BA aircraft to bring back stranded nationals from Peru. Most passengers marooned when British Airways unilaterally abandoned all services to Italy are now thought to have returned, using other airlines and rail.
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
Joe White, Edgware
I trust that the DfT, or whoever, does not pay this Spanish controlled airline until the money due from being stuck in Italy is paid..