SOUTH Central Ambulance Service is drafting in help from the army to tackle staff shortages due to Covid.

A team of 30 medically trained service personnel have been supporting South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) as volunteers for up to 16 years but have now been formally partnered to support the trust during the pandemic.

Speaking at Bracknell ambulance station, Major James Allen, of the Royal Artillery based at Defence Equipment and Support at Bristol, said: “We all do this as volunteers and we have been doing for 15 years or so and this is a military mobilisation of that capability into a more full-time role to underpin the ambulance service whilst they are experiencing staff shortages.”

He added: “There is always reward in being able to help people in their time of need and it is a core tenet of being a member of the military to assist the nation when required.”

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The volunteers are all trained in driving emergency vehicles and can also provide medical support to the civilian clinicians who will still man all ambulances from the trust which serves the Home Counties and Thames Valley.

It comes after South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) said it was facing staff absences of up to "20 per cent during the Omicron wave."

Paul Jefferies, SCAS assistant director of operations, said “Our sickness has been up to 20% in the latter part of December and early part of this month and that has reduced to 17% now – we would normally see 6% to 8%.

“It affects our ability to put out operational crews so the military has supported us in wave one and two of Covid and we have worked with the military for 15 years now and they provide some emergency cover on their days off.

“As part of this recent military aid to the civil authorities we are getting around 30 military personnel to support us on frontline vehicles because these are trained personnel to enable us to deliver effective patient care."