The NHS and St John Ambulance are joining forces for the NHS’ anniversary to recruit and train thousands of ‘NHS cadets’.

The cadets will help to improve care for patients while offering 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 their leadership skills, and volunteering opportunities in the NHS - including vital hands-on work experience in hospitals.

The NHS Cadet programme is being piloted across Colchester, Hull and London and will be rolled out across England with Liverpool, Bradford, Hertfordshire and Wirral in the coming months, 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 directly contributed to thousands of young people beginning a career in law enforcement.

The programme is seeking young people from marginalised backgrounds, including teenagers from BAME communities, young people not in employment, education or training – or at risk of becoming so – and others who might not have previously considered a career in the NHS.

More than 750,000 people volunteered to help the NHS and social care services and 25,000 student nurses and medics worked on the NHS front line during the pandemic.

Chief Nurse for the NHS, Ruth May said: “The start of 2020 has been a challenging time for the NHS and its staff who have 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.

“However, this would not 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 on July 5, 1948, they have 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 are 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.”

The programme launches as the NHS celebrates its birthday on the back of the most significant year in the service’s history, with the global pandemic putting health services all over the world under unprecedented pressure.

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 now has a network of 11,000 young volunteers across the country.

18-year-old Mary Oshinyemi is the former St John Ambulance Cadet of the Year and began volunteering with St John over three years ago. She has been involved with developing the new NHS Cadets programme.

Mary 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 added 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 are given the chance to put into practice their skills and knowledge. At St John, we have providing opportunities to do this with first aid for over 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 are delighted to be focussing on young people to whom this may otherwise be unavailable, trusting them to care for others alongside NHS professionals”.

For more information, or to register interest in NHS Cadets, please email NHSCadets@sja.org.uk