Retired nurses and doctors return to tackle coronavirus

24 March 2020

Around 7500 retired healthcare workers have now answered the government’s call and signed up to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last week, letters were sent to more than 65,000 retired medics in England and Wales asking them to return to help.

On Thursday (19 March) the NMC, the UK’s four chief nursing officers and the Council of Deans of Health, as well as health trade unions, issued a call for retired nurses and midwives, and third-year student nurses and midwives to join the fight against the virus.

The call was specifically for nurses and midwives who have left the profession in the last three years to join the NMC’s Covid-19 temporary emergency register, so they can return to practice.

Students in the final six months of their undergraduate course have also been called upon to work under supervision in hospitals wards and other parts of the NHS.

Unite lead officer for regulation Jane Beach said: ‘We are facing the worst public health emergency in the UK since the ‘Spanish’ flu at the end of the First World War. This is the supreme public health battle of our generation.’

She highlighted that these unprecedented events demand flexible and rapid responses, which is why Unite is strongly supporting this call. 

‘We know that making changes to the way student nurses are educated in the last few months is an extreme measure, but we believe it is commensurate with the challenge we, as a society, face and so is the right thing to do,’ Jane said.

‘We thank our student nurse members for their feedback, which has informed our response to the discussions.

‘We will be communicating with our members who have recently retired or left nursing to encourage them to consider coming back to help out during this national emergency,’ she added.

Jane also said it is important to stress that for all, this is a choice: ‘The detail will be in the guidance and we will continue to be involved in the development of this and in monitoring the implementation.’

Health secretary Matt Hancock tweeted his delight on Saturday (21 March) that some 4000 nurses and 500 doctors had signed up to return to the NHS just 48 hours after the call was announced. However, he added that many more were needed. 

As of Monday night (23 March) 3000 more people had signed up.

The NMC has published the attached final joint statements and they are linked to its website which can accessed at


Picture Credit | iStock