The NHS in England may start hiring airline staff who have lost their jobs to fill a gap in nurse numbers, its chief executive has said.
Sir Simon Stevens told MPs airlines hired nurses from the NHS to work as cabin crew in the early 2000s.
It was now possible the NHS would consider hiring these staff back as the airline industry continues to struggle due to coronavirus.
He was speaking to the Commons Public Accounts Committee.
Sir Simon told the committee the health service had seen an “amazing response” from former NHS staff who were prepared to return to the frontline to help the fight against Covid-19.
But he added that international recruitment for NHS staff would be a problem for the first half of this year due to the pandemic.
‘In the background’
The NHS in England currently has a nursing staff gap of 40,000. Sir Simon said he wanted to see 50,000 nurses join the service.
Sir Simon told the MPS that the NHS would have to change the way it offers care, with coronavirus constantly “in the background”.
Agreements struck with private hospitals to supply beds during the coronavirus crisis would need to continue, he added, and Nightingale hospitals, set up to treat Covid-19 patients and manage excess demand for hospital beds, would be kept “in reserve”.
NHS hospitals had treated 89,000 coronavirus patients since the outbreak began in the UK in February, Sir Simon told the committee.
And standard emergency and A&E attendances, which had seen a drop, were starting to increase back to expected levels.
Chris Wormald, the top civil servant at the Department for Health and Social Care, told the committee that the UK “never ran out of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) nationally”.
But he said “there were a lot of issues” in getting PPE to NHS staff and care workers.
The government was looking at producing PPE domestically, he added, but there would be “no imminent replacement of what we need to buy on international markets”.