The Welsh Ambulance Service has extended thanks to the Armed Forces once again for its support through the coronavirus pandemic.
Ahead of winter and the emergence of the Omicron variant, the Trust secured military assistance to increase emergency ambulance capacity across Wales.
At peak were 235 Armed Forces personnel from the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force who joined the service in October, which was the third occasion the Trust had enlisted military support.
On Wednesday (30 March), the Chief Executive and Director of Operations presented a commemorative plaque to colleagues at Cardiff’s Maindy Barracks as a token of its appreciation.
Tuesday (29 March 2022) marked the military’s last shift with the service.
Director of Operations Lee Brooks said: “The pandemic has been one of the toughest chapters in our history but having the military on board was a huge help in the collective effort against Covid-19.
“Since re-joining us in mid-October, military colleagues have put in more than 11,500 shifts – or 121,395 hours – to bolster our capacity and help us deliver the best service we can in the face of extreme pressures.
“We also thank our staff who have worked differently to maximise benefits for as many patients as possible.
“We’ve enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the military, which has been further strengthened as a result of their support through Covid-19.
“We were thrilled to present colleagues with a token of our appreciation today.”
Chief Executive Jason Killens added: “This was the third occasion that we had enlisted military support through the pandemic, in what was always a time-limited agreement to bolster our capacity during the busy winter period.
“We’re extremely proud and grateful for military support, but long-term it is not the role of the military to compensate for the complex and long-standing issues in the NHS.
“We’ve been making preparations over many months for the withdrawal of the military in order to lessen the impact on patients, which has included the recruitment of 100 Emergency Medical Technicians who will become operational in May.
“This will bring the total growth in new frontline posts to over 260 in the last 24 months.
“We’re also doubling the size of the control room’s Clinical Support Desk, which means that we can assess more patients – up to 15% – over the phone, which negates the need to send an ambulance.
“Despite the growth in our workforce, the reality is that some patients will still wait longer than we would like in the coming weeks while pressures remain across the wider NHS urgent and emergency care system that inhibit our ability to respond.
“The public can play their part by making use of the full range of options available to them, including the NHS 111 Wales website for advice and information, Minor Injury Units, pharmacists, opticians and GPs.”
Jason added: “Military support has not only strengthened our existing relationships with the Armed Forces community but has opened up new opportunities for collaboration in future.
“We hope that their glimpse into the world of the ambulance service has been as rewarding an experience for them as it has been for us.”
More than 20,000 military personnel were tasked with supporting public services across the UK during the pandemic as part of a ‘Covid Support Force’.
Also among the ambulance services supported by the military were East Midlands Ambulance Service, South Central Ambulance Service and North West Ambulance Service.
Military support of the Welsh Ambulance Service, under what is known as Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA), has now drawn to a close.
Brigadier Andrew Dawes CBE, the Military Commander for Wales, said: “We are humbled to receive this commemorative plaque from the Welsh Ambulance Service today.
“It represents the culmination of a great collaboration during the past two years.
“It has been an extraordinary time for everyone during the pandemic.
“The military support we have provided since March 2020 – known as Operation Rescript – has seen service personnel involved in a wide variety of tasks in support of the civil authorities.
“In that time, we have learned a huge amount and made many new friends across the length and breadth of Wales.
“As we conclude our support to the Welsh Ambulances Service today, the soldiers, sailors and airmen, drawn from dozens of units across the UK, can be rightly proud of their contribution.
“It has been an utter privilege to support the ambulance crews on many thousands of callouts.
“We now return to our normal duties, but we depart with renewed respect for our emergency services who do such a fantastic job for us all day in, day out.
“Thank you for allowing us to be a small part of your amazing team.”
(Lead image: Wales Ambulance Trust)
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