• Virgin Atlantic staff will be given accelerated training on NHS Pathways
  • Staff had been furloughed from their jobs

Dozens of Virgin Atlantic call centre employees are being trained as 999 call handlers to deal with increased demand in the south east.

The Virgin Atlantic staff are undergoing an accelerated training programme before “going live” at the Crawley headquarters of South East Coast Ambulance Service Foundation Trust. In their Virgin Atlantic jobs they were based just a few hundred metres away from the trust’s emergency operations centre.

The staff have been furloughed by Virgin Atlantic, which means they can’t work for the company but can volunteer for NHS roles.

They are undergoing training on NHS Pathways — software which determines the correct response to a call — in a shorter time than normal and will then answer 999 calls and potentially help with NHS 111 calls, where there has been a significant increase in demand.

SECAmb is continuing to recruit call handlers as normal, but expects the extra staff from Virgin Atlantic to help it meet the increased demand during the coronavirus crisis.

SECAmb could not give the exact number of Virgin Atlantic staff being trained but a spokesman said it was facing “unprecedented” demand.

A spokesman added: “SECAmb has reached out to other organisations and their contact centre call handlers, who have recently worked for companies including Virgin Atlantic, to join our team at this time… These individuals will now undergo a rigorous training and mentoring programme over the coming weeks.”

Corneel Koster, chief customer officer at Virgin Atlantic, said: “We are very proud of our highly skilled people at Virgin Atlantic and since the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme was announced, we have been inundated with our people looking to help other organisations at this time of crisis.

The company is also working with London Ambulance Service Trust, Epsom Hospital, and the London Nightingale Hospital.