Coronavirus: Lewes MP Maria Caulfield returns to nursing

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image copyrightLizzie Massey
image captionNot everybody who has left or retired from the NHS is elderly, Maria Caulfield says

An MP is to return to the "front line" of nursing to help the NHS tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

Maria Caulfield made the pledge after the government called on retired health professionals to offer support.

Former MP Sarah Wollaston has also offered to "roll up her sleeves" and return to the NHS.

It came as one former nurse, who left the NHS in 2016, was told she could not return in her role as a sister because she had been away for over three years.

Ms Caulfield, who represents Lewes in Sussex, has called on others with healthcare experience to offer help.

Conservative MP Ms Caulfied has continued to do occasional shift work as a nurse since she was elected in 2015.

She previously worked at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, the Princess Royal Hospital, and the Royal Marsden.

Ms Caulfied's announcement came after the government said letters were being sent to more than 65,000 retired medics in England and Wales asking them to return to the NHS.

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The MP said: "I'm still fully trained, still got my uniform, so there's absolutely no reason why I couldn't go back to help at this time.

"I know it can be daunting for others who have been out of healthcare for a year, 18 months, two years. So the health secretary has said whatever support they need will be given to them."

Ms Caulfield said there were "a variety of settings" in which former healthcare workers could offer their support.

She also pointed out that not every nurse and doctor who had left the NHS was over 70 and in the vulnerable age group.

"There's lots of doctors and nurses who left or took early retirement... for a variety of reasons, childcare issues, or they'd had enough," she said.

"It's hard work in the NHS. If you think you've got anything at all you could offer, and you just need a little bit of health and support to get back into it, please get in contact."

Ms Wollaston, who represented Totnes between 2010 and 2019, said she was "keen to roll up my sleeves to come back and help in any way that I can".

image copyrightCarol Maskrey
image captionCarol Maskrey: "I appreciate there should be boundaries but I am here and I can start work tomorrow"

Former nurse Carol Maskrey, 60, from Chippenham, Wiltshire, said she was "frustrated" at being told by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) that only nurses who had left in the previous three years could return to the NHS in their former roles.

The NMC states on its website: "Our first focus will be to invite those nurses who have left the register within the last three years to opt in should they wish to do so."

Ms Maskrey, who left her role as a sister at the Royal United Hospital in Bath in January 2016, said: "It's really frustrating, they are getting all these ventilators in, but will they have have enough people to look after them?

"The mechanics may change but the principles do not.

"I appreciate there should be boundaries but I am here and I can start work tomorrow."

She has been offered a role as an unqualified nurse, but said: "I spent 35 years in nursing in intensive care so to return as an unqualified nurse would be a waste of my skills."

The NMC said the three-year rule was in in place "at the moment" and "we may review this".

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