JOIN THE NHS   Recession-hit workers should retrain as doctors and nurses to help short-staffed hospitals, says NHS boss

BRITS should retrain as a doctor or nurse if they are made redundant due to the coronavirus crisis, the head of the NHS has said.

Sir Simon Stevens said a recession could present “new opportunities” for the health service, which is desperately short-staffed.

He told MPs on the Public Accounts Committee that the NHS lost workers to the booming airline industry in the early 2000s.

But he hopes many of the cabin crew will now return to the frontline after being laid off by airlines who have seen business plummet.

Other struggling industries could be a fertile recruiting ground, he added.

There are 100,000 vacancies across the NHS, including 10,000 doctors and 40,000 nurses.

Sir Simon said improving retention, training more nurses in the UK and boosting international recruitment were three options.

But he added: “Obviously, in the light of coronavirus, we expect there will be disruption to international recruitment, I think for the first part of this year, if not beyond.

“Equally, we think there will be new opportunities to provide routes into nursing and the health professions, perhaps from occupations for which there is going to be less demand in the rest of the economy.

“I mean, without sort of listing them all, just take one example. In the early 2000s, the NHS was losing nurses to the airlines - to airline crews.

“It may well be that the airlines are going to be under some significant pressure, and perhaps we can think about recruiting back the other way.” British Airways has said it plans to make up to 12,000 staff redundant and Virgin Atlantic looks set to axe more than 3,000 jobs.