This article was fist published on The Times Red Box
Isles of Wonder, the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony, was a showcase for British culture and our way of life.
As the commentator that night said, the NHS is “the institution which more than any other unites our nation”. Across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, it’s a brand trusted like no other.
So it’s unsurprising that when the call went out during the height of the pandemic for people to come forward and support the NHS, hundreds of thousands signed-up to become NHS Volunteer Responders.
Now the time has come to harness that outpouring of support as the Government rolls out the new NHS Reserves. The NHS Reserve Programme will build on the enthusiasm shown by thousands of former NHS staff who signed up to support the Health Service throughout the pandemic.
Since the first pilot schemes were launched across the country, a staggering 17,000 reservists have been recruited. Reservists such as RAF Veteran and nurse Frank Shannon, who despite retiring in 2016 has returned to duty at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. He described his “motivation to help people” and not wanting to let his clinical skills go waste as drivers to becoming an NHS Reservist.
NHS Reservists such as Frank are now on the frontline across the country, caring for patients and alleviating the pressures of Coronavirus on the health system.
Reservists will be key to alleviating the pressures of Coronavirus and supporting our Booster Jab campaign. The real success will be giving healthcare leaders the staffing flexibility they need, whether that is responding to seasonal increases in demand, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, health and civil emergencies or major incidents such as traffic accidents.
For the patient, they need to have the same confidence in whoever is providing them care, whether regular staff or reservists. That’s why NHS Reservists will have the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to provide care and treatment, night or day, 365 days a year. Through the NHS Reserve Programme they will be given training and in-role experience to keep qualifications up to date, just like their Armed Forces counterparts,
But we also recognise that there is no one size fits all solution to healthcare, with different needs across the country. So the NHS Reserves will be locally led and owned. From April, when the pilot is extended to all 42 integrated care systems across the whole of England, local healthcare leaders will be empowered to ensure that the right people are deployed, at the right time, into the right roles. That could be either clinical or non-clinical, specialist or non-specialist. Underpinning the locally-deployed NHS Reserves will national-level infrastructure offering guidance and support. Ultimately, that means healthcare leaders will have the right resources to respond to any challenge.
As I said when I launched the NHS Reserves Bill in the House of Commons in November 2020, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to harness the passion, skills and commitment of those who have already volunteered for the NHS and those who would like to do so in the future.
So as the scheme is taken nationwide from April, I hope everyone will think about joining people like Frank Shannon by signing-up to be an NHS Reservist. You’ll be part of an NHS family that we are rightly proud to cherish and support.
Alan Mak is Conservative MP for Havant. He introduced the NHS Reserve Staff Bill to create the NHS Reserves in November 2020.