Tens of thousands of retired doctors and nurses have been told “Your NHS Needs You” as they were called on to return to work to help battle coronavirus.
The health service hopes that as many as 65,000 retired medics will roll up their sleeves to help tackle the “greatest global health threat in history”.
It comes as it emerged that other retired emergency service workers could also be called on to return to action.
London mayor Sadiq Khan said work was under way in writing to recently retired police officers so they could return to work to do back-office functions.
And recently retired firefighters under 70 could be asked to help.
The NHS said that on top of retirees, it was also offering temporary work to final-year medical students and student nurses.
To “boost the ranks” of doctors and nurses, the NHS sent a rallying call to its former employees.
England’s top nurse and top doctor have called on colleagues who have left the NHS in the last three years to re-register with the regulatory bodies.
Those who join the “NHS Army” will be assessed to see what kind of help they could offer in the service’s battle against the pandemic.
Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: “As the health service gears up to deal with the greatest global health threat in its history, my message to former colleagues is ‘Your NHS Needs You’.
“Our wonderful nurses in every corner of the country are preparing to change the way we work so that we can provide the right care for the rising numbers of people who will need it.
“But we can’t do it alone, so I am urging all recent former nurses to lend us your expertise and experience during this pandemic, because I have no doubt that you can help to save lives. And I’m grateful for senior students providing expert care in this time with their NHS colleagues.”
The Nursing and Midwifery Council is writing to more than 50,000 nurses whose registration has lapsed in the last three years.
The General Medical Council will write to another 15,500 doctors who have left the register since 2017.
Returners will be able to opt in to a register to fill a range of roles across the NHS – clinical and non-clinical – based on their skills and time away from work.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS, said: “Our hardworking NHS staff are working round the clock to get ready for the peak of the pandemic, and today we are calling on former staff to come back and help us.
“It is only right we use every means at our disposal to bolster the frontline in the face of this unprecedented challenge for the NHS.
“By offering to return to the NHS now, these thousands of well-qualified and compassionate people will make more of a difference than ever before – not just to patients, but to colleagues and the wider community.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “To further boost the ranks of our NHS, we are now turning to people who have recently left the healthcare professions who can bring their experience and expertise to our health system.
“They can play a crucial role in maximising our capacity to fight this outbreak – and wherever they can help, they will be hugely welcomed.”