In an extraordinary move for extraordinary times, health secretary Matt Hancock has called for 250,000 people to volunteer to help the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.
The volunteers will help the NHS and local services by delivering shopping and medicines to vulnerable people. Hancock also announced that an extra 35,000 staff, including final-year medical students and retired doctors and nurses, are joining the NHS to fight the virus.
Hours later, it was announced that 170,000 people had signed up to the service, which is by all measures a fairly remarkable number.
Yet lots of people have also pointed out the irony of the same government who presided over cuts to the NHS (and a recruitment crisis of nurses) suddenly begging the public to volunteer.
The same government whose “50,000 more nurses” pledge only featured about 20,000 new nurses.
The same government who advocated for getting “Brexit done”, when 10 per cent of NHS doctors are EU immigrants, despite EU immigrants only making up 5 per cent of the UK population.
It’s obviously heartening to see so many people apply to volunteer for the NHS. But it would also be good if the NHS had been more of a priority before this pandemic happened. Though hindsight is obviously 20-20