A flat owner in Barnet is offering his property rent-free to NHS staff working on the frontline to fight Coronavirus.

Simon Panesar, 60, a businessman from Leeds, owns a two bedroom flat in Colindale – near Northwick Park hospital, where staff were briefly overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients last week.

Now he wants to help returning NHS workers who need fast access to housing in London.

Applicants will need to prove that they work for the health service, and be willing to share with another member of staff.

The flat will be rent free for six months, or for as long as the crisis continues.

Mr Panesar was intending to sell his property – but the sale fell through several weeks ago as the pandemic took hold.

He then planned to rent the flat, and last week had two offers from tenants willing to pay £1,400 a month.

But on Friday, Mr Panesar said footage of hospitals in Italy alerted him to the seriousness of the crisis – and made him determined to play his part.

He said: “I got up and noticed the scenes that I saw in Italy in particular, in the hospitals where there were people on ventilators – and the scale of the deaths that was impending.

“It was around that time that the Government had appealed for doctors and nurses to come back to the NHS.

“That prompted me to say, I don’t need to rent this – I need to try and assist somebody who’s coming back.”

Almost 12,000 former NHS workers – including more than 2,500 doctors and 6,000 nurses – have volunteered to return to work, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday.

But Mr Panesar believes some retired NHS staff will have moved away from the capital, and wants to ensure returning workers can help in hard-hit London.

He is willing to offer the flat to any frontline NHS workers who need accommodation – whether they're coming back to work, or facing problems with accommodation now.

Mr Panesar says his property could be “an opportunity to tempt someone back into service” – but wants to make the appeal “much bigger”.

He said: “I’m certainly not a wealthy individual, but I am an individual who had one empty house and was prepared to turn it over to somebody that’s going to fight this virus on the front line.

“If my example is to be followed, we have to look at all these empty guest houses, look at all the Airbnb owners that have self contained apartments that could be utilised, all the small hotels that aren’t being visited by tourists.

“We have a lot of potential there to be able to help those workers directly.”

He said there are empty rooms “up and down the country” that could be used for frontline health workers – and called on other landlords in his position to follow his example.

Mr Panesar has received more than 25 applicants for the flat so far, and is currently deciding who will move in.

The Government has now (March 23) ordered everyone to stay at home unless absolutely necessary to fight the spread of Coronavirus. You can find the latest guidance here. Advice on the virus from Public Health England is available here.