CAREER chances in the NHS have never looked better, claim recruiters.
And 80,000 people - 30,000 more than last year - have started to think about joining or rejoining the workforce.
A £3.3m recruitment campaign launched in February to promote a wide range of careers in the NHS and to encourage staff who have left the service to return is the most successful campaign ever, say campaign organisers.
Figures published by the Department of Health today show almost 80,000 people contacted the NHS Careers helpline over eight weeks.
The response was as a result of a combined TV and print advert campaign, bettering last years' response by almost 30,000.
The NHS campaigned this year under the slogan "Join the team, make a difference".
The recruitment drive covered all careers in the NHS, including nursing and midwifery, the allied health professions, healthcare science, medicine and dentistry.
Last year's round of NHS Careers national recruitment advertising ran from February to March 2002, generating more than 51,000 responses.
Since 2000 when the first advertising campaign was launched, more than 15,000 nurses, midwives and health visitors have returned to work for the NHS and another 2,580 are on refresher courses, or preparing to go on them.
In the past two years, almost 1,000 health care professionals have also returned to the NHS, as have nearly 300 healthcare scientists.
ONE of those who has returned to the NHS is Lisa, a nurse from Huddersfield, who left the profession for about 12 years.
She has been back in the job for nine months.
"I left the NHS in 1989 to join the police. I spent 11 years in the force, which I enjoyed.
"I left the police after being involved in a road accident.
"I completed the 2001 Anatomy and Physiology Diploma and applied in August 2001 for the RTP course.
It was well-supported, input was well presented and in friendly surroundings," said Lisa.
"Upon my return to nursing, patients' and relatives' expectations seemed higher than before, technology had improved and, due to doctors' reduced hours, there were more opportunities available to nurses, doing jobs that doctors would have done, eg. phlebotomy, cannulation and defibrillation.
"It all creates a more challenging role for the nurse today," she added.