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Welsh Ambulance Service commends military’s contribution to Covid-19 effort

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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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Armed Forces

Swansea dignitaries mark Armed Forces Day

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The Lord Mayor of Swansea Cllr Mike Day and other local dignitaries honoured those who’ve served their country in the armed forces at a special ceremony at Swansea’s Guildhall Rotunda this morning.

Cllr Day along with the council’s Armed Forces Champion Cllr Wendy Lewis, HM the Lord Lieutenant Louise Fleet JP and the High Sheriff of West Glamorgan Stephen Rogers paid tribute to those who have served.

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Dignitaries at the Armed Forces Day event at Swansea’s Guildhall (Image: Swansea Council)

The tributes took place on the Guildhall Rotunda at 11am and also present were representatives from the armed forces, reservists, veterans and local cadet units.

The Lord Mayor said: “Armed Forces Day gives us the opportunity to celebrate our armed forces and give thanks for our serving personnel and those who have served in World Wars and other conflicts and to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us to enjoy the freedom we have today.”

“Our Armed Forces deserve the respect and admiration of us all and we are immensely proud of them.”

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Armed Forces

Free swimming in Wales to continue for the Armed Forces

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On Armed Forces Day, the Welsh Government has announced the continuation of the Armed Forces Free Swimming scheme.

The scheme enables serving members of the Armed Forces and Veterans to swim for free at participating leisure centres and pools, using their Defence Privilege Card.

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The Armed Forces Free Swimming Scheme (AFFS) was first introduced in 2016 and represents the continued commitment to provide the Armed Forces community with access to services which meet their specific needs and recognise the service they have given to their country.

Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden, said: “I’m very pleased that we are able to continue to support this scheme which is designed to ensure members of the Armed Forces past and present are able to benefit from the physical, and mental, health benefits swimming can offer.”

Deputy Minister for Social Partnerships, Hannah Blythyn, said: “We are committed to supporting our Armed Forces personnel and recognise how initiatives like this can boost their mental and physical wellbeing. I hope they can enjoy the benefits from this scheme over the next three years.”

Chris Llewelyn, WLGA Chief Executive said: “Local government is proud to deliver free swimming for our Armed Forces personnel and Veterans. We hope that even more people take part in the scheme in the coming year, taking advantage of the significant recuperative and social benefits physical activity offers. There are participating pools in each of Wales’ local authorities; to find out where your closet facility is, visit your local authority website.”

Throughout the 2021-22 financial year the scheme was taken up on average each quarter by 569 serving military personnel and veterans across Wales. The trend shows an increase in uptake as restrictions have been lifted, with the last quarter recording a peak of 879 people benefitting from 2641 visits to their local community swimming pools.

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To support the scheme, £45,000 to be issued every year over a three-year period; in 2022-23, 2023-24 and 2024-25.

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Armed Forces

Free breakfast for Armed Forces as Tesco recognise Armed Forces Day

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cooked food

Members of the Armed Forces will be able to get a free hot breakfast at Tesco cafés across Wales to mark the Armed Forces Day celebration in June.

As a thank you for their service, on Sunday June 26, all serving Armed Forces personnel, around 159,000 regulars and 32,000 reservists, can present their MOD90 identification card at any Tesco café and get a free full cooked breakfast, vegan cooked breakfast, sausage bap or a bacon bap.

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All 295 Tesco cafés across England, Scotland and Wales will be offering the promotion – limited to one free breakfast per cardholder.

Ashwin Prasad, Chief Product Officer at Tesco and Director Sponsor of the Armed Forces Network said: “We’re proud to be able to support National Armed Forces Day which celebrates the tremendous contribution that the armed forces make to our country. It’s an exciting opportunity for store colleagues across the country to celebrate. Everyone loves a free breakfast and we thought it was a gesture that showed how much we value members of the Armed Forces.”

Rhys Little, Chair of the Armed Forces Network at Tesco, said: “We’ve got a long history of getting behind those who have been in the forces. We’ve received the Gold award from the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme twice now (in 2016 and 2020), and we were also the first retailer to sign the Armed Forces Covenant in 2014. We also do our best to give anyone leaving the army, navy, or RAF a chance to forge a new career.”

Over the weekend of June 25 and 26, local events will be taking place in towns, cities, and villages up and down the country, and Tesco stores will be holding a nationwide collection for Help for Heroes.

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