Welsh Government backs ambulance service plea for military aid

Credit: PA

The First Minister says the Welsh Government fully backs a request for assistance from the army for the Welsh ambulance service. 

Pressures on the service have become acute as a result of rising coronavirus cases with bosses warning that expected demand from seasonal flu could lead to a tough winter ahead.

The service has asked for help from the army to deal with the pressures.

The military were brought in to aid the Welsh Ambulance Service at the height of the pandemic in 2020. Credit: PA

Speaking at his weekly question session in the Senedd, Mark Drakeford confirmed that the request had been made and that his government would endorse it being passed on to the Ministry of Defence. 

He said: "That request has now been received. The Welsh Government has a role either to endorse or to send back that request for further work.

"Through the whole of a pandemic, every time we have received a request of that sort from the health service we have always endorsed it. 

"We then have to send it on because the decision rests with the Ministry of Defence, as to whether or not to approve that application. Over the course of the pandemic, most applications have been approved, but not all, so it's not a rubber stamping exercise. 

"The Ministry of Defence look at it, and they decide whether or not they are able to help and that will be the stage we will be at next, making sure that we make the best possible application to the Ministry of Defence and hoping that they will be able to offer us the help that they have offered us in very large measure, during the course of the pandemic."

It seems that both the ambulance service and the Welsh Government will be pushing at an open door.The UK Government said the Welsh Secretary Simon Hart already wrote to the Welsh health minister proactively offering military help to the ambulance service.

Credit: PA

The First Minister was challenged by the opposition leader to spell out contingency plans for an expected difficult winter of rising covid cases and other pressures.

Andrew RT Davies said that, "On September the 15th last year, we were in possession of that as assembly members/MSs and we were able to analyse it and see the robustness of it. 

"When will we see the winter preparedness plan coming from the Welsh Government because, in the three week look forward for business in this parliament ... there's no indication of when that plan is coming forward."

In response Mark Drakeford said there was already a publicly available indication of what the contingency plans will be and that he will spell out further details "over the next couple of weeks."

He told Senedd members: "There is an extant plan because what we have done is regularly to update the COVID plan that we published during the pandemic. The latest version of the plan is the one that set out the alert levels and then included alert level zero, the alert level we've been at now for the last six weeks. 

"It is our intention to bring forward a further iteration of the plan to reflect the position as we go into the winter but it will be part of the regular updating of the plan that has been there.

"It's available for the member or anybody else to inspect, and as I say, as part of the approach we have taken throughout regular updatings of the Coronavirus control plan, there'll be a further iteration over the couple of weeks ahead."