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Published on Monday, March 30, 2020

Virgin and easyJet staff to volunteer in coronavirus hospitals

Virgin Atlantic and easyJet staff are to join the NHS fight against coronavirus, assisting medics at the new Nightingale hospitals being built in London and elsewhere.

Both airlines are asking staff who aren't needed to fly aircraft to consider helping at the new hospitals.

EasyJet has already written to all 9,000 of its UK-based staff, which includes 4,000 cabin crew who are trained in CPR, while Virgin Atlantic will write to approximately 4,000 of their employees from today, prioritising those with the required skills and training.

Both easyJet and Virgin are looking to furlough staff over the next few weeks following a sharp reduction in flights due to travel restrictions imposed around the world to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

EasyJet announced on Monday morning it is to ground its entire fleet as a result of the pandemic.

Those airline staff who sign up to the volunteer scheme will perform clinical support roles under the close instruction of nurses and senior clinicians on the wards at the NHS Nightingale Hospitals, said a Virign spokesperson.

The airlines have also been assured that staff will be issued with personal protective equipment (PPE).

"The health and wellbeing of our people is our top priority and we're working through all those details with the NHS right now and conducting risk assessments," she said. The NHS have assured us that strict health and safety and Infection Protection will be in place, and Personal Protective Equipment will be provided for all staff working on Project Nightingale."

The NHS has confirmed new coronavirus hospitals are being built at London's Excel, the usual venue for World Travel Market, and in Birmingham and Manchester, as part of Project Nightingale. Other sites are being considered.

Support workers will change beds, tend to patients and assist doctors and nurses working on the wards. 

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: "Nurses, doctors and other vital health and social care staff are working day and night to provide the best possible care to patients as the NHS continues to fight this global health pandemic. 

"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 staff are returning to work alongside us, but we need everyone to do their bit - whether that is working in one of our current health or social care services, working in the Nightingale Hospital, volunteering to help the NHS or staying home to save lives."

St John Ambulance are supplying hundreds of volunteers to help staff the first Nightingale hospital at the ExCeL centre in London.

Many airline staff are first aid trained or hold other clinical qualifications as well as being security cleared, while NHS clinicians will oversee their work - with expert training provided to all new recruits when they sign-up.

Corneel Koster, chief customer officer at Virgin Atlantic, said"We are very grateful to the NHS for everything they are doing in extremely challenging circumstances and we're committed to doing all we can to support the national effort against the rapid acceleration of Covid-19.

"We are very proud of our highly skilled people at Virgin Atlantic and since the Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was announced, we have been inundated with our employees looking to help other organisations at this time of crisis. 

"The NHS approached us with this unique opportunity as they recognise the value and experience our medically trained cabin crew and trainers will bring to the incredible Nightingale Hospital initiative.

"In addition, our cargo business is very busy with extra flights, keeping global supply chains running and transporting essential medical supplies into the UK at this time."

Staff and volunteers working at the new hospitals will also be offered free accommodation. Those staying in the hotels will have breakfast provided and lunch or dinner depending on the shifts that they are working.

Tina Milton, director of cabin services for easyJet, said: "We have all needed the NHS at some point in our lives and so we are so proud that our crew can now help to support the NHS at this crucial time.  

 "The NHS is at the forefront of dealing with this health emergency but the training and skills our cabin crew have, working closely with the medical professionals, could help make a real difference."


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