MPs are returning to work in the NHS as the government appealed to retired doctors and nurses to return to the frontline to fight coronavirus.

Maria Caulfield, a registered nurse and Conservative MP, said she wanted to assist the health service with the “unprecedented numbers of patients needing care” during the outbreak and to bolster the workforce in case staff fall ill.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, issued a plea to retired NHS workers to return to the frontline on Friday, telling medics: “Your NHS needs you now.”

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Regulators have written to more than 65,000 retired doctors and nurses to appeal for help, with final year students also being fast-tracked into the NHS to cope with the strain of the outbreak

Ms Caulfied, the Tory MP for Lewes, said she was returning to work as the “NHS will be getting unprecedented numbers of patients needing care, but also because staff are liable to get sick themselves.

“They can only go at 110 per cent pace for so long and will need breaks themselves.”

Ms Caulfield, who used to work at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, said she will be taking on night shifts, weekend work and shifts during the parliamentary recess.

She said Boris Johnson was “very supportive” of her decision, adding: “It’s important to help out if you can. With schools closed it’s putting a lot of pressure on the NHS.

“If one member of their family goes into self-isolation they all have to now, so that’s taking people out of the system.”

Labour deputy leadership contender Rosena Allin-Khan will be helping in her local emergency department at the weekend to ease the strain on her colleagues.

Labour’s Rosena Allin-Khan (Getty)

Dr Allin-Khan told The Independent: “I’m proud to pull on my scrubs and get stuck in alongside my phenomenal NHS colleagues, especially when I’m inundated with messages of concern about the conditions they are having to work in.

“Many frontline hospital staff, as well as GPs and care workers, simply do not have the protective equipment that they so desperately need, and for any who show symptoms, they aren’t being tested for coronavirus.

“The government must act now to fix this, which is why I’ve already raised these issues with the prime minister directly.”

Dr Kieran Mullan, a trained A&E doctor, is also planning to take on shifts locally and appealed to retired medics to join the effort.

The Tory MP for Crewe and Nantwich said: “I know how deeply NHS staff care about others. That’s what those that have recently retired dedicated themselves to.

“You’ve spent a whole career being asked to go above and beyond. And now we have to ask you to do the same again.

“I will be there with you and together we can help get this country through an unprecedented challenge.”

James Davies, a GP who represents Vale of Clwyd, will also be working in the NHS over Easter and beyond if necessary.

Elsewhere, Labour MP Emma Hardy, a former teacher, has also gone back to work in a primary school this week to help cover staff absences.

The Hull West and Hessle MP said: “Today I am back in school, loving working with the kids again, such a vital time for them.

“Everyone involved working in schools does such a great job for our children.”

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