According to the Defence Secretary, four thousand troops are ready to assist the NHS in a winter crisis.
Ben Wallace said they are ‘ready to help’ carry out tasks such as administering vaccines, testing for Covid, driving ambulances and providing general support in hospitals.
The revelation is among the surest signs yet that ministers are on ‘a war footing’ ahead of a feared winter crisis in the NHS.
The Defence Secretary (pictured) announced last night that four thousand troops were on standby to help the NHS deal with a winter emergency.
Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the potential impact that flu, coronavirus, and other seasonal pressures may have on hospitals already stretched in the coming weeks.
And it emerged yesterday that ministers in England are considering ‘restructuring’ the NHS waiting list to counter fears that it is becoming overwhelmed.
Many obese patients waiting for minor operations have been advised to lose weight before they can be removed from waiting list.
Last week, the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust declared a critical situation. Up to 100 patients were waiting in the emergency room and 25 ambulances were waiting outside.
Managers contacted staff asking them to work extra hours to help handle ‘intense pressures’ and families were urged to contact wards if they could provide support to enable someone waiting for home care to leave hospital sooner.
Ben Wallace said they are ‘ready to help’ carry out tasks such as administering vaccines, testing for Covid, driving ambulances and providing general support in hospitals
Many Scottish health boards are asking for more military support to meet the soaring demand and roll out the booster vaccine.
Mr Wallace, speaking in Scotland, said: ‘We’ve got plenty [of armed forces personnel available]We have thousands of military personnel on standby in winter, mainly due to our experience with floods and other disasters.
‘We have already put on standby something like 4,000-plus people, for the whole of the United Kingdom.’
Pledging that more support will be provided in Scotland if needed, he said: ‘They [the Armed Forces]All are citizens of the United Kingdom. Nicola Sturgeon might be SNP but if the people of Scotland need the support of defence, they’ll get it.’ However, he warned that additional support from military personnel cannot be used to let devolved governments ‘off the hook’ for policy failings. It will only be provided for the ‘next few months’, or however long the pandemic lasts, but should not be expected beyond that.
Meanwhile, the UK’s top gynaecologist warned last night that NHS maternity services are near breaking point.
Meanwhile, the UK’s top gynaecologist warned last night that NHS maternity services are near breaking point
Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: ‘We’re becoming increasingly concerned about the immense pressures facing our maternity staff this winter if the situation continues as it is.
‘With the number of Covid-19 cases rising, the NHS could soon be in a situation where it is unable to deliver the care it needs to or deal with the huge backlog that has already built up.’
He told The Guardian that many women and girls suffering from gynaecological conditions are currently on extensive waiting lists with ‘no end in sight’.
And Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: ‘We are already struggling to cope.
‘This is not something that’s coming in the next couple of months, we are already in a terrible place where we have got large queues of ambulances with vulnerable people waiting to be offloaded into departments and other patients at home waiting to be picked up by the ambulance.’
She told Sky News: ‘The system is incredibly busy. We are already reaching a point where you don’t get an immediate answer when you ring 999.’