Welsh Government called to declare 'ambulance emergency' as service makes plea for military aid

Welsh Ambulance service have called for help from the army Credit: PA

The Welsh Conservatives will call on the Welsh Government to declare an "ambulance emergency" at a debate in the Senedd later this afternoon.

The party is holding the debate and vote to set out a series of steps, including using the armed forces to help ease the situation faced by the Welsh ambulance service.

On Wednesday morning, the ambulance service confirmed it has asked for additional support under Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) arrangement.

If approved, it will be the third time soldiers have helped during the pandemic.

Rising coronavirus cases, coupled with extra demand from seasonal flu on top of the usual pressures during colder months signals a "tough" winter ahead, according to an ambulance service boss.

Chief Executive Jason Killens said: “Covid-19 has presented a challenge like no other, but the last couple of months in particular have meant significant and sustained pressures on our ambulance service.

“The Trust is starting to return to some of the arrangements we had in place at the height of the pandemic to better manage the increase in Covid-19 related activity that we’re feeling the impact of once again.

“As part of this, we’re seeking to re-enlist the military, who did a superb job of assisting us on two occasions previously last year.

“Winter is our busiest time, and this will enable us to get a head start on what we foresee will be a tough period, especially when you couple Covid-19 demand with seasonal flu and our usual winter pressures.

“This is about bolstering our capacity as far we can and putting us in the best possible position to provide a safe service to the people of Wales.”

A spokesperson for Joint Military Command Wales said: “Defence remains ready to offer support to civil authorities in the UK and we will work with the Welsh Government and the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust to understand their requirements and offer assistance where appropriate.

“Since March 2020, Defence has supported more than 450 Military Aid to Civilian Authority (MACA) requests as part of the Covid Response Force.”

Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government fully backs a request for help from the army Credit: PA

Speaking during his weekly question session in the Senedd on Tuesday, Mark Drakeford said he backed calls for assistance from the army.

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."

The Conservatives are unlikely to win the vote due this afternoon because they do not have enough seats in the Senedd.

The Welsh Government are expected to amend the motion to acknowledge the unprecedented difficulties and set out the actions it's taking.