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by Andrew Learmonth
15 October 2021
Humza Yousaf requests military assistance for NHS boards stretched by pandemic

Humza Yousaf requests military assistance for NHS boards stretched by pandemic

NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Borders have called in the military to help with a backlog in care caused by the pandemic. 

The health boards are both struggling with acute services “because of workforce shortages associated with the virus.”   

A total of 63 military personnel will be deployed to NHS Lanarkshire – this includes three nurses, 45 military medics, 12 General Duties Troops and three drivers who will be working in acute settings. 

In NHS Borders, 14 military medics, two nurses and four additional military personnel will provide assistance in acute settings. A military driver will provide transport. 

Two military medics will oversee operations from the army’s headquarters in Scotland.

Military support within the two health board areas is due to start on 19 October and continue initially until 10 November 2021, though this will be kept under constant review.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The NHS is experiencing significant pressure at the moment because of Covid-19 admissions and the backlog in care built up during the pandemic and we are taking a range of steps to introduce additional capacity in order to help with the unprecedented pressures on the health and care system.”

He added: “In the NHS Borders and NHS Lanarkshire areas, staff shortages because of Covid-19 are affecting bed capacity and temporary military assistance has been requested to support the boards at this time.

“With increasing levels of social mixing and close social contact it is expected that this winter Covid-19 will circulate alongside respiratory viruses, such as flu, adding to the winter pressures usually faced by the NHS.

“This military support will allow both boards to support existing staff to reduce waiting times, enhance care and provide a better experience for our patients.     

“As always I would like to thank all those involved in our healthcare systems for their continuing hard work and dedication over this particularly busy time.”

Brigadier Ben Wrench, Commander Joint Military Command Scotland, said the army was "ready to support civil society in Scotland and the rest of the UK."

He added: "The ability of trained military healthcare professionals and their support team to deploy at short notice and provide short term support to cover a critical gap shows the utility of the Armed Forces and the strength of the ongoing relationship with partner civilian organisations.”

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said he was "very glad" the army was able to step in: "Nearly 90 army medical personnel and support staff will be working at the front line of Scotland's NHS. We are grateful for all their efforts to keep us safe."

Last month soldiers were drafted in to help alleviate pressure on the Scottish Ambulance Service. 

The Ministry of Defence provided 114 personnel to carry out non-emergency driving work, while another 111 worked on mobile Covid testing units.

That came after reports of some patients facing extremely long waits for help to arrive.

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