• Third year student nurses will be invited into clinical practice, NHS chief executive announces
  • Bulk of CQC routine inspections will “need to be suspended”, says Sir Simon Stevens
  • Sir Simon: Inspectors should help with clinical practice
  • Between days and weeks to get prepared

Third year undergraduate trainee nurses will be invited into clinical practice to support the coronavirus effort, while routine care quality inspections are “going to need to be suspended”, the chief executive of NHS England has said.

Speaking at the chief nursing officer’s summit event in Birmingham this morning, Sir Simon Stevens told delegates NHSE was working with the Nursing and Midwifery Council to “see how many of the 18,000 [relevant] undergraduates are available”.

It is understood they would be paid, and follows government moves to pass emergency legislation to relax rules around working in healthcare. 

Asked about Care Quality Commission inspections during the outbreak, Sir Simon said: “There will be a small number of cases where it would be sensible to continue for safety related reasons… but the bulk of their routine inspection programmes is clearly going to need to be suspended and many of the staff who are working as inspectors need to come back and help with clinical practice.” 

The CQC has said it will not yet cancel all routine inspections, but that it will take a pragmatic approach.

Sir Simon also said “dedicated refresher training” was needed for nurses, doctors and therapists for the likely conditions patients will present with.

“Over the next month, three months, fives months, our lives are going to be dominated by the response to coronavirus,” Sir Simon said. “It is going to be the single biggest challenge facing all European health services.

“We are going to have to respond flexibly and pragmatically in the the way the NHS always does.”

He said there was a “whole series of work” under way considering what the inpatient care model would look like under coming weeks.

“Where we have been up until now is containing individual cases, we are shortly about to enter the phase where we are going to be taking measures at the population level to spread the number of cases over a long period of time so the pressure over the NHS is lower than it would have been,” he said.

Sir Simon added: “We have a window of days, [to] a few weeks, to get ourselves prepared.”