Recruitment of NHS staff to assist with COVID-19 response: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

1. How many people registered to help, broken down by doctors and nurses

2.  How many of them have been taken on to help with covid, again how many doctors, how many nurses

3. How much additional capacity in terms of icu beds has this resulted in for scotland


At the outset of this pandemic, the Scottish Government and NHS Education for Scotland (NES) launched the Health and Social Care Covid-19 Accelerated Recruitment Portal, to allow returning professionals to take up roles in health and social care settings. The Portal was one of three strands of volunteering and recruitment encouraged under the Scotland Cares campaign, along with initiatives to place volunteers with local public services via the British Red Cross and with third sector groups, administered by Volunteer Scotland.

Overall, these three campaigns received over 76,000 expressions of interest received in total. The campaigns were closed to new applications from May 2020, to allow NHS Education for Scotland capacity to process those coming forward via the Portal for recruitment as NHS Board employees; and for local authorities and third sector organisations to deploy volunteers as required through the other two volunteering strands.

The Scottish Government does not hold data on how many nurses and doctors may have volunteered to support the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic through these strands. Nor is a detailed breakdown available of which staff groups were employed via the Accelerated Recruitment Portal (eg doctors, nurses).

We are only therefore able to provide a response in respect of the overall numbers of students and returners who came forward through the Accelerated Recruitment Portal only, and who progressed onwards to paid employment within NHS Scotland Boards.

A total of 18,369 expressions of interest were received via the Accelerated Recruitment Portal. This number was substantially reduced as significant number of these expressions of interest were either identified as duplicates, or came from registrants who later withdrew from the process. A number of registrants whose previous experience was derived from social care settings were also passed to the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) for processing into social care employment. Of the remaining 7262, NHS Scotland Boards employed 6,767 which included students and returners.

On the question of how many of those recruited were taken on to help with Covid-19, there is no national statistical definition of this currently available. NHS Boards recognised their existing responsibilities to deploy people locally meant that virtually all individuals they employed via the Portal would be likely to support efforts against Covid-19 in some way, directly or indirectly. As these required local decisions to be taken about allocating additional staff flexibly and quickly, no statistical distinction was made between frontline roles or other support which may involve, for example, backfilling the roles of existing employees who may have moved to provide direct Covid-19 patient care. Additionally, it is known that a number of applicants indicated that they did not want to take up patient facing roles.

It should be emphasised that decisions on the deployment of nurses and doctors within NHS Scotland are, and remain, the responsibility of individual NHS Boards.

Finally, on the impact of this additional capacity, no statistical information is available which links between additional staff recruited via the Portal and numbers of ICU beds. However, NHS Boards retain the ability to double their baseline ICU capacity to 360 within one week, treble to 585 in two weeks and, if required, extend this to over 700, subject to staff and supplies.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have some of the information you have requested. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have some of the information you have requested.

About FOI

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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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