Army being drafted in to help ambulance service as Omicron pressure rises

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Charlotte Briere-Edney

The army has been drafted in to drive ambulances for South Central Ambulance Service for a fourth time since the pandemic began.

Military personnel will be supporting paramedics, after the service revealed it was experiencing staff absences of up to 20% due to Covid.

Major Emma Allen said: "We've been deployed full time by the Ministry of Defense to work alongside the clinicians, driving the ambulances and treating patients in support of the 999 calls that they're receiving."

Military personnel have been drafted to help paramedics in the South East and the Thames Valley. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Emergency call volumes remain lower than in previous waves, but ongoing staff absences mean South Central Ambulance Service has been struggling.

Paramedic Mark Ainsworth said: "We've seen quite a significant increase in the level of staff absence. We've seen about up to 20% of our staff being off either with Covid symptoms or isolating because of family members.

"We are under the same level of pressure we were during the two previous waves of the pandemic. So having the military come in will give us that boost that we need to put extra ambulances on the road."

South Central Ambulance Service Credit: ITV News Meridian

Recruits have been specially chosen because they already have experience working with the ambulance service. They all volunteer as co-responders in their free time, so they know how to drive emergency vehicles and have medical skills.

The military was first sent in to help South Central Ambulance Service at the start of March 2020. Some personnel have spent months on the road already and say they are excited to be back.

RAF Warrant Officer Alex Bedborough said: "It's really rewarding seeing the patients, they don't all have to go to hospital, which is good being able to treat patients at home and leave them, they're given the best possible care."

Watch: Major Emma Allen

Major Emma Allen added: "Nobody will know we're military when we arrive on scene, we wear the same uniform as SCAS and we subtly fit in.

"This is because we really want to treat the patients and make them our priority rather than them worrying about us being military and what our skill sets are."