Soldiers to drive ambulances in Yorkshire as paramedics hit by Covid absences

Dozens of military personnel will be deployed to transport patients in Yorkshire as the region's ambulance service continues to be hit by Covid absences.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service has confirmed 40 military personnel will start training from next Tuesday and will be working with patients within two weeks. It is expected their services will be required "for a number of weeks".

The military staff will be charged with transporting patients with less-urgent needs. It comes after the trust suspended its usual non-emergency patient transfer service taking people on routine journeys to planned care clinics on Wednesday as a result of staff absences due to Covid.

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As part of the role of the military staff, they will assist in transferring patients between hospitals and taking the most vulnerable patients to and from hospital.

Ambulances outside the LGI in March 2020. Picture: James Hardisty

Nick Smith, Executive Director of Operations, said: “Like all other ambulance, health and community services across the country, we are experiencing operational pressures which are exacerbated by COVID-19 related absence.

“Our dedicated staff are doing their best to respond as quickly as possible to all 999 calls, but we acknowledge that some patients are having to wait longer for an ambulance response. As part of our resilience planning, we have always had the option of making a request to the military for help and we have now asked for that assistance.

“We will be able to use military personnel to work alongside our staff, enabling us to support patients and get people the treatment they need sooner. This, in turn, will free up our staff to attend to serious and life-threatening cases. Military staff will work alongside a YAS colleague and attend minor cases, hospital transfers and discharges only.”

“They will receive YAS training in driving ambulances, manual handling, kit familiarisation and basic life support, similar to the standards of the Trust’s patient transport service staff who have also been supporting the emergency service throughout the pandemic.

"They will enable paramedics to accompany patients, whose condition is not deemed to be serious, in the back of vehicles while being driven to or from hospitals."

Mr Smith added: “I would like to thank all our hard-working staff and volunteers for their continuing efforts and requesting this additional support means that we can further support our staff and volunteers as they care for our patients during this challenging time.

“We would like to reassure our patients and the public that, in spite of the challenges currently faced, our emergency service remains fully operational and anyone who needs our assistance for life-threatening of serious emergencies should continue to call 999.”

It comes as a board meeting of the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust heard this morning that 20 military personnel will be deployed to South Yorkshire, with 20 going to West Yorkshire.

Chief operating officer Trudie Davies said: "It is important to raise here because our staff may well see Army people walking around in their uniforms."

She said alternative arrangements have been made for patients who had previously been due to receive ambulance service transfers to appointments.

"We've worked with the ambulance service to understand who they considered to be routine, and we have contacted all of those patients and made alternative arrangements so no patients have been cancelled or lost their appointment as a result of that decision," she said.

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