MoD sends military personnel to bolster 999 crews


Nearly 200 members of the armed forces are being loaned to NHS ambulance services to support their work during the pandemic, the Ministry of Defence has revealed today. 

Personnel from all three strands of the armed forces will be sent to work at five ambulance trusts.

Although their responsibilities will vary depending on the area, the new duties will include driving ambulances and taking calls from the public.

This comes as thousands of fire and rescue workers – who have taken on extra responsibilities during the pandemic – have been put in self-isolation. 

Military personnel arrive at the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the Excel Centre in London this morning 

Members of the Queen's Ghurka Engineers Regiment, 36 Engineer Regiment, help to build the new NHS Nightingale Hospital on London

Members of the Queen’s Ghurka Engineers Regiment, 36 Engineer Regiment, help to build the new NHS Nightingale Hospital on London

Firefighters applaud outside Clapham Fire Brigade Station during the Clap for our Carers campaign

Firefighters applaud outside Clapham Fire Brigade Station during the Clap for our Carers campaign

Firefighters removing a suspected coronavirus patient from their home in Shepherd's Bush, west London earlier this month

Firefighters removing a suspected coronavirus patient from their home in Shepherd’s Bush, west London earlier this month

Eighty service personnel will be sent to the South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust where they will drive emergency response vehicles, larger ambulances and work at the response centre which covers five counties around London.

In London, 21 medical personnel from the armed forces will form 10 critical care transfer teams to transport patients who need to be moved between intensive care units.

Engineers from the Army are also supporting the London Ambulance Service to maintain suction units used in ambulances.

In Wales, 60 soldiers finished their two-day ambulance training at the Sennybridge Training Camp near Brecon on April 7, ready to be deployed across Wales to assist paramedics with non-clinical tasks.

Thirty-seven military personnel have been deployed to the East of England Ambulance Service, which covers six counties including Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire, to assist with tasks including driving and logistics.

The group all volunteer as emergency responders in their free time and have previously trained with the service.

Members of the RAF are already assisting the Scottish Ambulance Service with a trial of a medical isolation and transport system, using RAF Puma helicopters to take critically ill people to hospital.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: ‘Our armed forces always step forward at the appearance of threats to the country and its people.

‘Across the United Kingdom, soldiers, sailors, airmen and women have got the backs of our NHS colleagues as they confront coronavirus.’

Members of the armed forces have helped with the response to the outbreak in a variety of ways.

Military personnel were involved in the planning and building of the first NHS Nightingale hospital at the ExCel exhibition centre in east London, as well as its equivalents across the country.

Armed forces personnel made up of 39 drivers and 63 driver’s mates have also been trained to fill and transport oxygen tankers to NHS facilities.

Military personnel were involved in the planning and building of the first NHS Nightingale hospital at the ExCel exhibition centre in east London (pictured on site today)

Military personnel were involved in the planning and building of the first NHS Nightingale hospital at the ExCel exhibition centre in east London (pictured on site today) 

Members of the Armed Forces have been working with NHS medical staff and Air Ambulance Service crews at Thruxton Aerodrome. The training session was arranged to ensure that the frontline medical staff could integrate successfully with military aircraft as and when needed during the ongoing global pandemic

Members of the Armed Forces have been working with NHS medical staff and Air Ambulance Service crews at Thruxton Aerodrome. The training session was arranged to ensure that the frontline medical staff could integrate successfully with military aircraft as and when needed during the ongoing global pandemic 

The Ministry of Defence said there are hundreds of personnel delivering supplies of PPE for the NHS based at distribution centres across the country, amid reported shortages of the vital equipment.

Meanwhile, there are understood to be almost 3,000 fire and rescue workers in self-isolation across Britain.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is calling for the government to roll out testing to allow those who do not have coronavirus to return to work, the BBC said.

Fire crews have taken on extra tasks during the Covid-19 pandemic, including transporting personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing masks for frontline health workers to ensure they fit properly before use.

Firefighters have already agreed to drive ambulances, deliver essential items such as food to vulnerable people and retrieve dead bodies in addition to their core roles.

The FBU told the broadcaster that an eighth of staff in Bedfordshire are off work, while 10% of staff in London are self-isolating.

It added that while there were planned testing programmes in Scotland and Wales, and firefighters in Northern Ireland have already been tested, there was no such system for England.

General secretary Matt Wrack said services would be put on a ‘dangerous knife edge’ if staff are forced to isolate unnecessarily. 

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