Health secretary issues plea for 250,000 volunteers and says new measures are 'rules, not advice'
By James Young | 24th March 2020
Health secretary Matt Hancock has used today's coronavirus briefing at 10 Downing Street to issue a call to arms to the public of Great Britain as the government seeks 250,000 volunteer responders.
The new NHS Volunteer Responders scheme will help the health service and important local services carry out vital tasks while the current virtual lockdown is in place.
He also confirmed that the ExCel centre in London's Docklands is to be turned into a 4,000 bed special hospital - named the NHS Nightingale Hospital - to cope with the anticipated rise in admissions.
Reaffirming last night's message from Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the new lockdown measures, Mr Hancock opened by saying they are "not requests, they are rules. You should stay at home."
"I think the public know it's important and aware on how vital it is we get a grip on this virus.
"The more we follow the rules, the quicker we stop the spread of the virus."
Turning to the new scheme, the health secretary called on the country to unite.
"While it is a time of great turbulence it is also a time when the country can come together," he said.
"We are seeking 250,000 volunteers to help the NHS, for shopping, to support volunteers.
"The NHS volunteer responders is a new scheme to ensure that the NHS and the local schemes that are needed get all the support they can to help with shopping, delivery of medicines and to support those who are shielded."
Mr Hancock also praised the nearly 12,000 retired NHS workers who have returned to work in the wake of the crisis unfolding and said that final year medical students and nursing students will also join the NHS frontline.
He added: "The call we made at the weekend for people to return to the NHS has been incredibly successful. 11,788 have answered that call.
"I pay tribute to each and every one of those who are returning to the NHS at its hour of need. Final year student nurses and medics will go to the front line.
"35,000 more staff coming to the NHS, when it needs it most."
Finally, he announced that the ExCel centre, close to London City Airport is being transformed with milltiary assistance.
It will have two wards, each for up to 2,000 patients.
He added: The new temporary hospital, the NHS Nightingale Hospital, at the Excel centre in London will make sure we have the capacity we need."
"The hospital will be ready to take its first patients at the start of next week. We can already see the additional cases coming towards the NHS," Professor Stephen Powis, thenational medical director for England who flanked the health secretary at the conference, said.
Details of the NHS Volunteer Responders Scheme will be announced by the Department of Health in the coming hours.
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