Troops drafted in to drive North East ambulances
Armed forces personnel have been drafted in to drive ambulances in the North East.
Staffing pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as a recent surge in demand, are among the factors behind the need to call in extra help.
But bosses have insisted the temporary support will not affect quality of care and that paramedics will still be on hand to attend as needed.
Vicky Court, deputy chief operating officer at the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), said: “The NHS in North East is facing increasing demand and we are using tried and tested methods to alleviate pressures on services so everyone will continue to get the care they need.
“In response to the increased demand we are facing, a group of 25 military personnel arrived at NEAS recently.
“This boost to our resources will ensure everyone continues to get the care they need by freeing up paramedics to be more available to attend potentially life-threatening incidents.
“If you are worried about your health but it is not an emergency, please use 111 online to be directed to the best service for your needs.”
Reports have suggested almost 100 members of the military have been sent in to provide back-up for ambulance trusts across the UK.
As well as the 25 in the North East, troops have also been dispatched to assist in the North West, South West and East of England.
In the North East, those sent to help out are believed to have been given training before being deployed to services such as patient transport and other ‘lower acuity’ needs, leaving paramedics to deal with the most serious incidents.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has caused staffing pressures across several industries, including healthcare, and combined with other issues such as sickness, self-isolations and annual leave, has led to shortages of workers.
Last month, bosses at NEAS appealed for the public to reserve 999 calls for emergencies after what they claimed had been their busiest week ever, with demand on some days exceeding levels usually seen on New Year’s Eve.
James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service