200 troops are being deployed in London to support the NHS as hospitals continue to deal with staff shortages.
The army is set to provide military medics to assist doctors and nurses with patient care, while other personnel are also being deployed to help in non-medical hospital roles.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed the troops are expected to be ‘on task’ for three weeks, and in a separate move announced 32 military co-responders are also being deployed to assist paramedics with the South Central Ambulance Service.
In response to the news the Royal College of Nursing’s director for England, Patricia Marquis, said the government could ‘no longer be dismissive’ about the pressures facing the NHS as a result of the Omicron wave, telling Sky News, ‘Once the military has been brought in, where does the government turn next in a bid to ‘ride out’ the wave rather than deal with it?’
17 hospital trusts have declared critical incidents over staff shortages due to isolation and increasing hospitalisations, indicating that they are struggling to safely provide some primary care services. A critical incident is declared when a hospital trust feels it may not be able to provide priority services, such as emergency care, BBC News reports.
Confirming the troop deployment, Armed Forces minister James Heappey said, ‘London has made a request for support for hospitals that are struggling with winter pressures and Omicron and we’re able to help by sending personnel in to help with both clinical and administrative tasks.’
‘Sailors and medics will be working with doctors and nurses but that’s not new. We’ve been doing that throughout the pandemic with trusts throughout the UK. It’s also tried and tested for non-clinical personnel to go into hospitals to do administrative tasks to help wards running well.’
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: ‘The men and women of our Armed Forces are once again stepping up to support their dedicated colleagues in the NHS as they work hand-in-hand to protect the nation from COVID-19.
‘They have shown their worth time and again throughout this pandemic, whether driving ambulances, administering vaccines or supporting patients in hospital, and they should be proud of their contribution to this truly national effort.’
There are currently an estimated 1,800 service personnel deployed across the UK to assist various authorities during the pandemic.
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