Union Unite has called for military personnel to be used to augment NHS staff and ease pressure on hospitals.
Unite Union Convener Jamie McNamee said:
“Regularly we have ambulances queuing at facilities throughout Scotland. A couple of good examples are Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow where routinely crews will wait three hours. Our first option would be to initiate internal national risk and resilience procedures.
That would entail building or producing pop-up wards outside the A&E departments that are unable to cope with demand, allow the crews to hand over the patients to these trained clinicians and free up that mobile asset to respond to treble-nine calls.
I believe the Army would have similar facilities that could come in helpful. I’m sure they’re busy themselves, however I think we find ourselves in a bit of a national crisis at the moment.”
A Scottish government spokesperson said:
“Despite the pressure coronavirus has brought upon our ambulance service, which serves some of the most rural areas in the UK, in 2020-21 crews responded to over 70% of highest priority calls in under 10 minutes and more than 99% in under 30 minutes. It is vitally important there are no unnecessary delays for ambulances taking patients to hospital and we continue to work closely with the service and with health boards across Scotland to ensure ambulances are cleared as quickly as possible.”
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.