MORE than 100 new NHS workers who rushed to join the East Lancashire Hospitals Trust in April during the first peak of the coronavirus crisis have been hailed as heroes.

New figures show that dozens, including students and retired staff, signed up to work at the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General Hospitals as the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

MPs Nigel Evans, Kate Hollern and Sara Britcliffe have praised the brave souls who put their own lives at risk to help cure others and the vehicle hire company which lent 50 luxury motorhomes to the trust so key medical staff could stay on site during the outbreak.

NHS workforce figures show there were 9,094 members of staff employed at the ELHT in April, ​103 more than during March.

The biggest increase in workers was among those in clinical support roles whose numbers swelled from 2,915 to 2,974.

This included 63 workers directly supporting doctors and nurses many of whom were student doctors or nurses fast tracked into work to help fight the virus.

As the numbers swelled at the end of March, Priory Rentals of Union Road in Oswaldtwistle took campervans up to the Royal Blackburn Hospital’s car park as temporary accommodation for doctors and nurses on the front line of the battle against Covid-19.

Ribble Valley MP and House of Commons deputy speaker Mr Evans said: “This was a fantastic response by the people of East Lancashire. These volunteers are heroes of the battle against coronavirus. Their response makes us all proud.”

Hyndburn MP Miss Britcliffe said “The news that more than a hundred new and returning healthcare workers have joined the trust in April shows just what great people we have living in East Lancashire.

“They will have helped save many lives and we must pay credit to their dedication and hard work.

“I also want to thank Priory Rentals in Oswaldtwistle for lending motorhomes to the hospital for staff to live in, so they do not go home and put their families at risk. Our communities have come together during this pandemic and shown the best of Hyndburn, Haslingden and East Lancashire.”

Blackburn Labour MP Mrs Hollern said: “It was fantastic to see so many new people come forward to take up positions in the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust. It has been playing a vital role in the efforts to combat coronavirus and without these dedicated staff we would be in a far worse position, with lives potentially lost.”

Cllr Damian Talbot, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s health and well-being boss, said: “Our NHS staff do an amazing job caring for patients. The last few months have been the most challenging in generations, but the staff have maintained a dedicated attitude. It is great to see so many more people joining the NHS and contributing to our battle against coronavirus.”

Julie Molyneux, ELHT’s deputy director of nursing said: “We are extremely grateful and fully acknowledge the hard work, commitment and support of all of our wonderful staff through these times. We are especially grateful to our brilliant student nurses and doctors in training who have worked so hard support the organisation to continue to to deliver safe, personal and effective care.

“We also thank our retired and returned staff members who have also been invaluable to providing the best care possible.”

Across England, the NHS figures show there were 12,839 extra members of NHS staff in April, of whom 3,008 were professionally qualified doctors and nurses.

There were also 8,687 new support workers assisting on wards including more than 4,500 fast-tracked student doctors and nurses.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This pandemic has shown how proud the entire country is of all our brave health and care workers, and what an essential role they play in society.

“We made the commitment of 50,000 more nurses by end of this Parliament, and I’m determined we will meet it.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said there were also 442 former healthcare professionals who ‘bravely volunteered to return to the frontline’.

The Royal College of Nursing said student and recently returned nurses had ‘stepped up to make an invaluable contribution’.

Representatives of the 'union' said the next step was to make sure the extra staff were retained in coming months.