Alan Mak MP, who represents Havant in Hampshire and serves as the Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party, is set to present a new bill in Parliament which proposes the introduction of a volunteer reservist system for the NHS.
Modelled on the Armed Forces reservists and police special constables, the proposed new law would see England adopt the system to strengthen the NHS and help support the continued volunteering of former healthcare professionals and non-clinical volunteers, as we have seen during the coronavirus pandemic, in a more sustainable long-term role.
Mr Mak’s NHS Reserve Staff Bill is set to be proposed in Parliament on November 24, 2020 and is understood to be backed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
According to the Department of Health and Social Care, some 47,000 former healthcare professionals (including retired doctors and nurses) volunteered to help the NHS amid the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak, with a further 750,000 non-clinical volunteers signing up online to support their local communities.
An apparent 18,000 of the clinical returners, according to NHS figures quoted by Mr Mak, are said to be interested in a longer-term role, such as joining an NHS reservist system.
The proposals being put to parliament would see the creation of a new, permanent NHS Reserves system to provide a formal bank of trained and vetted volunteer staff to support NHS hospitals and trusts during periods of high demand for staff, supplementing – though crucially not replacing – the NHS’ permanent workforce.
Pilot schemes are being put in place across England to explore how a reservist system could operate and will include both clinical and non-clinical volunteers.
A new national NHS Reservists Register would be created to capture details about volunteers and their skills.
Trusts, hospital chief executives and other healthcare bodies would be able to access the Register to call-up Reservists with the skills needed at the time. Reservist disciplines would range from clinical roles such as doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants and carers to non-clinical roles such as drivers, electricians, logistics specialists, IT experts and communications professionals.
Mr Mak said, “The pandemic has shown how much people love our NHS and how ready they are to support the Health Service when times are tough.
“The new NHS Reserves system will enable people to volunteer their time and skills and help their local hospital, GP or pharmacy – a positive, long-lasting legacy after coronavirus that will benefit the Health Service in every region for years to come.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “Hundreds of thousands of people have selflessly volunteered to support our NHS during the coronavirus pandemic, bringing out the very best in us all to help our communities and our country at this difficult time.
“I want us to build on that incredible collective achievement, and Alan Mak’s proposal for an NHS Reserve force is a brilliant opportunity to make this happen.
“I strongly support him in his efforts to bring this to bear.”
The proposed NHS reservists bill is backed by a number of prominent Conservative MPs including Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee, Commons Health Select Committee Chairman Jeremy Hunt and former Conservative Party Leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, among a number of others.