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by Andrew Learmonth
19 October 2021
More health boards call in military as winter pressures begin to bite

More health boards call in military as winter pressures begin to bite

NHS Grampian has become the third health board in Scotland to ask for military assistance, as winter pressures, stubbornly high Covid rates and staff shortages continue to bite

NHS Ayrshire and Arran is expected to make a similar request imminently, while reports in today's Scotsman suggest NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde are “exploring options” 

It comes as the deployment of the armed forces to NHS Borders and NHS Lanarkshire begins, with 86 personnel deployed at least until November 10.

NHS Grampian’s head of health intelligence, Jillian Evans, said many boards would be grateful for the military help. 

"The possibility of nursing staff would be really important to us. We’d back it up and augment it with some fantastic volunteers who help us with transport situations, but having military support would be a real boost to us too.”

Health secretary Humza Yousaf has aid the Scottish Government would look “favourably” on such requests.

He said: “If that request comes into the government, then, of course, we would look at that favourably.

He added: “But you can imagine, the military is getting these requests from every single health board and NHS Trust across the entire United Kingdom.

“So no doubt they are also stretched. But certainly, if a health board makes an approach to the government then we will certainly look to make an approach to the military for assistance.”

Conservative health spokesman, Dr Sandesh Gulhane criticised the Scottish Government 

"It's a move that should have happened a long time ago when we first started noticing that any waiting times were at record highs, with only 71.3% of patients seen in the four-hour target, we should have started calling the military, started making plans.

"The problem we see here is an SNP government that knee jerk reactions and aren't forward-thinking in planning.”

Labour’s Jackie Baillie said it was “abundantly clear” that more military support will be needed over the winter.

"We must thank the British Army for helping the NHS but this is just a short-term sticking plaster,” she said.

“The government must seriously consider asking them to help construct field hospitals, if that is supported by clinical evidence.

“Our NHS is experiencing a winter crisis already due to the SNP’s complete failure to support our health system. There really is no time to waste.”

Asked if the problems in Scotland's NHS were because of a failure of planning or because of the pandemic, Dr Graeme Eunson, Chair of the BMA's Scottish Consultants Committee, told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland, that Scotland had gone into the pandemic "with an NHS that was stretched beyond capacity."

The consultant paediatrician at Borders General Hospital called for the health service to stop being used as a "political football."

He said: "If you roll back to December 2019, no one is going to say that the NHS was firing on all cylinders and doing a great job. It was under huge pressure before the pandemic came along, and this has been a substantial straw on top of a very heavily burdened candle, and it has literally broken the back of the service.

"The service is made up of the people who are delivering the care. We have the physical space in many hospitals we just don't have the staff to look after the patients that are needing that care, and it's the whole system that is struggling, it's not just the hospital, its general practice, it's the care sector, and that's both in the residential care homes and also the care at home packages.

"The whole system is failing and we need to have a grown-up conversation across the political divide and stop making health and the health of our nation a political football."


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