Senior health officials have called on 65,000 retired NHS doctors and nurses to return to the profession to support the fight against the coronavirus.
Final year medical and nursing students are also being invited to take on temporary roles to alleviate the pressure the virus is putting on the health service.
Letters are being sent out to those who have left the profession in the last three years and have up to date skills and experience, asking them to return to the NHS.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council will write to more than 50,000 nurses whose registration has lapsed within the past three years, while the General Medical Council will contact 15,500 doctors who have left the register since 2017.
They will be offered clinical and non-clinical roles, based on their skills and their time away from practice.
Those who are particularly vulnerable to the Covid-19 coronavirus, such as those aged over 70 or with health conditions, will not be asked to re-join.
Final year medical students and student nurses are also being invited to take on temporary, fully-paid frontline NHS positions.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS, said: “It is only right we use every means at our disposal to bolster the frontline in the face of this unprecedented challenge for the NHS.
“By offering to return to the NHS now, these thousands of well-qualified and compassionate people will make more of a difference than ever before – not just to patients, but to colleagues and the wider community.”
Those who return to the profession will receive a contract that reflects standard terms and conditions such as working hour protections, pay arrangements, and annual leave entitlement. They will also undertake a full induction and online training before they begin working.
“As the health service gears up to deal with the greatest global health threat in its history, my message to former colleagues is ‘Your NHS Needs You’,” said chief nursing officer for England, Ruth May.
“Our wonderful nurses in every corner of the country are preparing to change the way we work so that we can provide the right care for the rising numbers of people who will need it.
“But we can’t do it alone, so I am urging all recent former nurses to lend us your expertise and experience during this pandemic, because I have no doubt that you can help to save lives. And I’m grateful for senior students providing expert care in this time with their NHS colleagues.”