Local MP and nurse Maria Caulfield backs new law to create NHS Reservists

Maria Caulfield MP, who returned to the NHS during the Covid19 pandemic, is backing a law in Parliament to create a new system of volunteer reservists for the NHS, modelled on Armed Forces reservists and police special constables.

The NHS Reserve Staff Bill was presented in Parliament on Tuesday 24 November 2020 and was backed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Maria Caulfield MP as the Bill starts its passage in the House of Commons.

The Bill proposes a new, uniformed standing reserve of clinical and non-clinical volunteers which NHS hospitals such as The Royal Sussex County and Eastbourne District General Hospitals, health trusts and other health service bodies can call upon when staffing demands increase. Scenarios where NHS Reservists could be called up include public health emergencies, seasonal increases in demand, large public events and protests, industrial action, and critical incidents such as terrorist attacks or major accidents.

By backing the Bill, Maria Caulfield MP is now the NHS Reserves Champion for the Lewes Constituency, and will champion the roll-out of the NHS Reserves system locally. As NHS Reserves Champion, Maria will also play a leading role in encouraging residents to consider applying to become NHS Reservists in both clinical and non-clinical roles.

Department of Health & Social Care figures indicate 47,000 former healthcare professionals, Including Maria Caulfield MP, volunteered to help the NHS during the Coronavirus outbreak, with another 750,000 non-clinical volunteers signing up online via the GoodSam app. NHS figures show that around 18,000 of the clinical returners are interested in a longer-term role, such as joining the NHS Reserves.

The new law would harness this strong public desire to support the Health Service beyond the Coronavirus outbreak by creating a new, permanent NHS Reserves system to provide a formal bank of trained and vetted volunteer staff to support NHS hospitals and Trusts during periods of high demand for staff, supplementing (but not replacing) the NHS’s permanent staff. 

NHS England is currently putting in place pilot schemes in all seven Health Service regions across England, to explore how the new Reservists system could operate in practice, including in the Lewes Constituency. Reservist disciplines would range from clinical roles such as doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants and carers to non-clinical roles such as drivers, electricians, logistics specialists, IT experts and communications professionals.

Maria Caulfield MP said, “The new NHS Reserves system will benefit the Lewes constituency and enable local people to volunteer their time and skills to help our local hospitasl, GPs and pharmacies. I’m delighted to be backing this important new law in Parliament to support our Health Service. The pandemic has shown how much people love our NHS and how ready they are to support the Health Service when times are tough. I returned to the NHS to work on the Covid ward when our NHS needed me, and I know many others locally who took up this call. I hope local people will consider becoming NHS Reservists when the system is ready.”

Alan Mak MP, the Bill’s author who came up with the NHS Reserves idea, said, “Maria Caulfied is a strong NHS supporter locally and in Westminster, so I’m delighted to be backed by such a dedicated colleague to create the NHS Reserves. NHS Reservists will benefit the Health Service across the Lewes constituency and Maria will be an outstanding NHS Reserves Champion locally, promoting the new system and encouraging residents to become Reservists. I could not be more grateful for Maria’s help in getting the NHS Reserves off the ground.”

Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said, “Hundreds of thousands of people have selflessly volunteered to support our NHS during the Coronavirus pandemic, bringing out the very best in us all to help our communities and our country at this difficult time. I want us to build on that incredible collective achievement, and Alan Mak’s proposal for an NHS Reserve force is a brilliant opportunity to make this happen. I strongly support him in his efforts to bring this to bear.”