The UK Government has approved the support through the ‘Military Assistance to the Civil Authority’ process, following a request from the Scotland Office, working with Scottish Government.
The Ministry of Defence will provide 114 people to augment ambulance drivers and a further 111 personnel who will operate Mobile Testing Units which the military previously supported in 2020.
114 personnel, including drivers and support staff, will provide resilience to the Scottish Ambulance Service by carrying out non-emergency driving work, and each will be paired with a clinical professional. They will start in role from the 25th September and are expected to be on task for a couple of months. The support will focus on the central belt of Scotland, primarily Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Fife and Edinburgh.
An additional 111 service personnel, including from 2 Scots, will deploy to support the continued delivery of Mobile Testing Units to help identify infections and break chains of transmission. The military have significant experience of setting up and running testing programmes across the UK including in Scotland last year. The support will be provided primarily around Glasgow and Edinburgh and personnel will start their task by Wednesday 29th September.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
“Our Armed Forces are once again stepping up, demonstrating their versatility as we support the Covid-19 response across the UK. We are proud to work alongside the dedicated men and women at the Scottish Ambulance Service as they continue to provide a lifesaving service to the people of Scotland. Our commitment to provide rapid support to communities and civil authorities is being delivered alongside the deployment of thousands of personnel on operations around the world.”
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon Said:
“Our ambulance pressure is working under acute pressure right now, largely due to covid. I want to take the time to thank our paramedics and technicians for the work they are doing in such difficult circumstances. While they are responding to these challenges, I recognise that some people are not getting the standards of service they should be getting, or the standard the ambulance service wants to deliver. I apologise unreservedly to anyone who has suffered or who is suffering unacceptably long waits. A range of actions have already been taken to address these challenges.
For example, additional funding to support new recruitment. And additional actions are under active consideration. I can confirm this includes consideration of seeking targeted military assistance to help deal with short-term pressure points.Such assistance is already being provided to ambulance services in England and, of course, we have had military assistance for other aspects of the pandemic in the last 18 months.”
Alister Jack, Scottish Secretary said:
“Our fantastic British Armed Forces have played a key role in the fight against Covid-19 across the UK and it is admirable to see them once supporting crucial public services in Scotland in times of need. The dedication and professionalism of the 225 personnel being deployed will be invaluable for the Scottish Ambulance Service and Covid Mobile Testing Units. We are grateful for all their efforts to keep us safe. As we have continued to see throughout the pandemic, the strength of the Union and support offered by the UK Government has never been more important.”
Brigadier Ben Wrench, Commander of Joint Military Command Scotland said:
“The Armed Forces in Scotland continue to support the Scottish Government’s response to the pandemic. We are working closely with the Scottish Government and Scottish Ambulance Service, following their requests for assistance with drivers and Mobile Testing Units. Our servicemen and women, drawn from units in Scotland and elsewhere, are always proud to support the NHS and the other emergency services. Opportunities like this allow the Armed Forces to demonstrate their adaptability and teamwork in providing assistance to local communities.”
According to the Ministry of Defence:
“The military have supported Scottish communities with the response to Covid-19 throughout the pandemic through the MACA process including military liaison officers who have worked alongside local resilience teams and the Scottish Government. The military also provided advice on the construction of the NHS Louisa Jordan facility in central Glasgow, set up and ran testing programmes and latterly vaccination centres across Scotland which saw Armed Forces personnel vaccinate over 100,000 people.
The military have also been involved in logistics and planning support. The Armed Forces stand ready to step up and support civil authorities, devolved nations and communities as required in the coming months.”
As we reported previously, the military is already in use helping four ambulance trusts in England due to high demand and staffing shortage. BBC News previously reported that almost 100 members of the Army will be used to work alongside NHS staff. Military personnel from the 12th and 16th Royal Artillery regiment arrived at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in January in order to work with the portering teams.
More than 100 porters work at the hospital and play an important role in the smooth running of all services. From moving patients, managing waste, delivering pharmacy products and ensuring departments have the vital equipment they need to care for patients in the hospital.