Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that the British Army are to be called in to help NHS Scotland amid a major staffing and waiting time crisis.
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.”
The Ministry of Defence spokesperson said:
“The Ministry of Defence has received a request from the Scottish Government under the Military Aid to Civilian Authority process. We are working hard to identify where we can most effectively assist other government departments and civil authorities.”
GMB Scotland organiser Drew Duffy said:
“The understaffing crisis in the ambulance service was already understood pre-covid, but what the pandemic has done is make a bad situation worse – to the point we now need the army. The Scottish Government told us the NHS was prepared from the outset of the pandemic, but PPE failures, testing challenges, and now rising pressures on waiting times tell a very different story. Staff are beyond breaking-point and we need to urgently invest in them so we can retain and recruit the people needed to deliver this service on which we all depend.”
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.
Terece Walters, Clinical Director of Facilities and Engineering, said:
“We’re delighted to welcome the British Army at the County hospital. Porters provide a crucial service to every aspect of the hospital. The military support will be invaluable to our teams who play an important role in keeping the hospital running.”
It is hoped that additional clinical and support staff would speed up movement throughout hospitals, assessing and moving patients quicker, freeing up ambulance crews.