The NHS and St John Ambulance are joining forces to recruit and train thousands of ‘NHS Cadets’ in a new programme to improve patient care and offer a route into health service employment for up to 10,000 young people.
The £6 million programme, funded equally by NHS England and the charity, will provide 14 to 18-year-olds with first aid training, courses to develop leadership skills, and volunteering opportunities in the NHS, including vital hands-on work experience in hospitals.
The NHS Cadet programme is initially being piloted across Colchester, Hull and London and will be rolled out across England with the aim of enrolling 10,000 young people by 2023. With the NHS needing more nurses, doctors and other staff to deliver new and expanded services in the years ahead, it is hoped the programme will have similar success to the police cadets, which has helped thousands of young people begin a career in law enforcement.
The NHS Cadet programme is seeking young people from marginalised backgrounds, including teenagers from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities, young people not in employment, education or training, and others who might not have previously considered a career in the NHS.
Chief Nurse for the NHS, Ruth May (pictured), said: “The start of 2020 has been a challenging time for the NHS and its staff who’ve cared for 100,000 people with Covid-19 who needed specialist treatment and countless more besides, while working to redesign services and even build the Nightingale hospitals. This wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of countless individuals, including volunteers who are already making an enormous contribution.
“Volunteers could and should never replace nurses, doctors and other staff, but since the NHS’s foundation in 1948 they’ve played a fantastic role in supporting clinicians and assisting patients, and this initiative sits firmly in that tradition. By introducing an NHS Cadets programme we’re now offering young people a genuine opportunity to get a taste of what it’s like to work in the best health service in the world.”
There are currently 131,000 cadets in England covering a range of areas such as policing and the military. St John Ambulance has supported young people in communities through its existing Cadet and Badger schemes since 1922 and has a network of 11,000 young volunteers across the country.
Eighteen-year-old Mary Oshinyemi is the former St John Ambulance Cadet of the Year and has been involved with developing the new NHS Cadets programme. She said: “Volunteering uniquely brings people of all ages together, uniting them with the hope of improving other people’s quality of life.
“This comes with the bonus of providing the volunteer with the scope of personal development and I believe that, particularly in modern day society, it’s extremely important for young people to view volunteering as a necessary method of connecting with others from all walks of life.”
Martin Houghton-Brown, CEO of St John Ambulance said: “Young people thrive when they’re given the chance to put into practice their skills and knowledge. At St John, we’ve providing opportunities to do this with first aid for more than 100 years.
“This partnership with the NHS will create a new generation of young people motivated to learn more about health volunteering and social action. The unique hands-on experience that being a cadet provides will undoubtedly lead to many future healthcare professionals emerging. We’re delighted to be focussing on young people to whom this may otherwise be unavailable, trusting them to care for others alongside NHS professionals.”