As part of the Aviation Task Force Covid Support Force, a Chinook helicopter was deployed in support of the NHS assurance of Harrogate, Exeter and Sunderland Nightingale Hospitals.

The Clinical Panel Assurance visits will enable the Nightingale hospitals to open on the desired dates, providing additional support to NHS Trusts in the fight against Coronavirus, say the RAF.

What is the Aviation Task Force?

As part of the military’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, forces from Joint Helicopter Command are on standby to provide aviation capability in support to civil authorities.

The new COVID Aviation Task Force has helicopters on standby across the UK to support the government’s response to coronavirus. The RAF Puma, Army Air Corps Wildcat, RAF Chinook and Royal Navy Merlin provide essential medical evacuation capabilities as well as the ability to swiftly deliver essential equipment and personnel to where they are needed across the nation.

The following efforts have been made:

  • 3 RAF Puma helicopters have been detached to Kinloss Barracks in Moray, Scotland to support requests for assistance from the NHS in Scotland and Northern England
  • 2 British Army Air Corps Wildcat helicopters have been detached to RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire, to support requests in Scotland and Northern England
  • 3 RAF Chinook helicopters are on standby at RAF Odiham in Hampshire and a further 2 British Army Air Corps Wildcat are on standby at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset to support Southern England
  • 3 Royal Navy Merlin helicopters are also on standby at RNAS Culdrose to support Southern England, the Channel Islands and Isles of Scilly.
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maurice10
maurice10
4 months ago

There could be significant changes in how our armed forces interface with the British emergency services? Once COVID-19 has been contained, the public perception of what is important may change, and that could result in less interest in defence spending, over increased spending on contagion preparation? Such a strategy would have overwhelming public support, and obviously, increased spending on the NHS would be a certainty, and possibly, at the cost of the MOD budget? Okay, the general public understands the need for armed forces, however, the mood is bound to change in favour of ensuring Britain is prepared to fight… Read more »

Trevor
Trevor
4 months ago
Reply to  maurice10

I see no necessary linkage.

Paul.P
Paul.P
4 months ago
Reply to  maurice10

I would hope that lessons will be learned such that the NHS can ideally cope with the next Covid event without support from the armed services. Better integration of health services; comprehensive procurement system with all delivery points such care homes, private hospitals connected; sufficient stocks of equipment, list of ‘reservist’ medical staff, better decontamination protocols for care homes, quarantine principle applied to hospital provision and internal design, NHS and Private testing labs. In this situation there is a case for epidemic related hospital medical staff and care home staff to be resident in dedicated isolation facilities. Its really a… Read more »

Jordo
Jordo
4 months ago
Reply to  maurice10

I understand where you are coming from but I think it is something should always remain separate. There should be no cost sharing, the NHS budget should be have anything to do with military equipment and to be honest for it to be viable to much of the NHS budget would be put into the programme and into assets that will not get the use as they are so expensive to use. The MACA system we currently have is the best balance between maintaining the correct skills on the military frontline and still providing assistance as required to the civil… Read more »

maurice10
maurice10
4 months ago
Reply to  Jordo

I’d be very surprised if the MOD budget is not cut in order to pay the huge costs of strategic medical supplies. I don’t believe some people grasp the true nature of the huge effort that will be required, to ensure that a ‘next time’ response will be fast and plentiful. 60+ million people will need to have basic protection for a worst-case contagion, say, an airborne killer, resulting in thousands of cases a day. After Covid-19, public nervousness will be at an all-time high, regardless of how quickly, the current virus is brought under control. An assurance that a… Read more »

Mark B
Mark B
4 months ago
Reply to  Jordo

Cross charging is standard practice. It would not be a problem!

Mark B
Mark B
4 months ago
Reply to  maurice10

Government tends to work in silos. Effective action across departments could result wide ranging benefits. I can see the Civil Service trying to block it though. The mood of the country is shifting though. People want the NHS to work properly without delay. I think the political will is there!

maurice10
maurice10
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark B

The shift in public opinion will be powerful and very focused on disease prevention. Up to now, the British people have shown remarkable tolerance and compliance with government orders. People realised that the steps required were also being applied across the World. There was sympathy for the Government who found themselves creating policy on the hoof. However, such compliance will only be adhered to in the future if there is a clear contingency in place to quickly react and contain. And that will require a considerable effort and support infrastructure, and that’s where the financial petard will be discovered.

Mark B
Mark B
4 months ago
Reply to  maurice10

Hi Maurice, I’m not so sure it was that remarkable. UK Governments do not have a history of abusing their powers in that way unlike many other countries. In my opinion the jury is still out on Boris’s Government it will either be the most radical for many decades or a damp squib. We shall see!
Financially the UK is in a much better position than most. We are a resourceful people and will do what needs to be done.
Any sensible Government, once Covid has passed, will look carefully at the disaster planning in a whole range of areas.

maurice10
maurice10
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark B

The real heat in regards to fighting contagion will come once this strain of COVID is over. Any wavering in regards to building up adequate medical provisions, by the Government, will not be tolerated. Just how the country will pay for such readiness is a vexed question, however, it will be horrendously expensive. So, something has got to give, and it won’t be NHS budgets, that’s for sure?

Mark B
Mark B
4 months ago
Reply to  maurice10

I agree. Covid has woken mankind to the threat of viruses and that may well have been a tactical mistake by the virus. There has been talk for many years about a capability to detect and destroy any virus. Those projects may well get the funding they need now that viruses have moved from the category of nuisance to active threat. This may save money ultimately. We are overdue a comprehensive cure in a whole class of illness. Government has perhaps paid insufficient attention to disaster recovery preparations over the years. The military is the backbone of the establishment and… Read more »

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
4 months ago

Hmmmme – I thought I’d offer a slightly different and maybe controversial perspective on this. A friend of ours works in one Nightingale hospitals and has less than favourable things to Say about some of the self important senior individuals involved trying to grasp PR opportunities for their gongs. Half the work seems to be to keep the TV and press out…..and get people to focus on running……a hospital. Quite hard as there isn’t a huge amount of medical work going on in them – thankfully. An email trail I was sent by someone else, we were supplying some materials,… Read more »

Jordo
Jordo
4 months ago

“While I suspect the RAF team are working hard, doing as ordered, I’m not totally sure what a massive asset like a Chinook is adding to the NHS that couldn’t be achieved with more civilian type cabs? I‘d grasp it if it was pulling heavy stuff around that was urgently needed or medivacing people from remote location – but as a taxi?” The ability to move people to and from remote locations faster than anyone else, not just in flight time but in response time as well. From what I understand civilian air ambulances won’t touch suspected or confirmed covid… Read more »

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
4 months ago
Reply to  Jordo

I’m 100% with the RAF on this one – they are delivering the service they were told to. My comment arises from the articles, and those before it, that implied that Merlin was being used for the isolation pods. The article above appears to quite clearly state that Chinook is being used to taxi well NHS staff between Nightingale sites. As I understand it some of the Nightingale sites are being mothballed from tomorrow anyway. Don’t get me wrong Chinook is brilliant in certain arenas and I’m 100% supportive of the UK’s investment in the fleet we have. It does… Read more »

700 Glengarried Men
700 Glengarried Men
4 months ago

Could it be the RAF has decided to assist the UK and is using allocated flight hours in this way