Coronavirus: NHS Nightingale work for Virgin and EasyJet staff

NHS Nightingale Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The new temporary NHS Nightingale Hospital is being set up at the ExCeL Centre in London’s Docklands area

Thousands of EasyJet and Virgin airline staff are being offered work in the new NHS Nightingale Hospital.

Those who sign up will support nurses and senior clinicians at the coronavirus field hospital in east London, the NHS said.

Virgin Atlantic said furloughed staff who help will be paid through the government retention scheme.

NHS England said many airline staff are first aid trained and already have security clearance.

The workers will be changing beds and performing other non-clinical tasks and helping doctors and nurses working on the wards, the NHS said.

Virgin Atlantic said it has written to around 4,000 employees, while EasyJet said it has contacted 9,000 of its UK-based staff – half of whom are first aid trained, the airline said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nearly 6,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in London, according to government figures

Travel restrictions and a slump in demand because of the pandemic has forced airlines to cancel most flights and temporarily reduce staff.

Virgin Atlantic had to cut four-fifths of its flights and has asked staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave.

Ryanair and EasyJet ground most of their fleets, while BA owner IAG is to cut capacity by 75%.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption NHS Nightingale will have the capacity for an extra 4,000 beds to help with the demand on the NHS
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Virgin Atlantic said flights were still operating to carry cargo around the world

EasyJet’s Tina Milton said cabin crew “could make a real difference”.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in London has soared well ahead of the rest of the UK, with the capital making up around a third of all deaths linked to the virus.

Last week, the government announced it would turn the ExCeL Centre into a temporary hospital to cope with the surge in London.

Nearby London City Airport has stopped all commercial flights until further notice and the airfield will be offered to the government “to help with the national effort” against coronavirus.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The Ministry of Defence has been helping set up the new temporary hospital

England’s chief nursing officer Ruth May said: “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 nurses, medics and other expert staff are returning to work alongside us, but we need everyone to do their bit.”

Two more temporary hospitals are to be built in Birmingham and Manchester and NHS England said other sites are being considered across the UK.

Hundreds of volunteers for the St John Ambulance will also help staff the NHS Nightingale Hospital.

Virgin Atlantic said staff who take up the offer will be given free accommodation and meals.

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