Omicron: Army sent to help London hospitals amid NHS staff crisis

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Around 200 members of the armed forces are made available to hospitals in the capital (Photo: Reuters / AP)

Hundreds of soldiers are drafted into London hospitals to replace staff in isolation with Omicron as the NHS grapples with a critical manpower shortage.

Metro.co.uk exclusively revealed yesterday that the military stands ready to provide more aid to the NHS as the Covid push increases pressure on already struggling staff.

The Defense Ministry has now confirmed that around 200 members of the armed forces are being made available to hospitals in the capital, which has been the epicenter of the Omicron outbreak with a huge upsurge in cases.

Military medics will help doctors and nurses provide patient care, while general duty staff will help fill in gaps caused by other absences.

The Royal College of Nursing said the deployment means Boris Johnson can no longer deny that there is a ‘personnel crisis’ within the NHS.

Prime Minister said it was “not true” that the health service is not well staffed to deal with the pressures it faces, despite dozens of hospitals declaring critical emergencies in recent days .

Patricia Marquis, RCN Director for England, said: “The Prime Minister and others can no longer ignore questions about the ability of NHS staff to provide safe care.

“Once the military has been recruited, who does the government look to next to try to ‘ride’ the wave rather than deal with it?”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 11: Yorkshire Regiment soldiers observe a 2-minute silence to mark Remembrance Day at the Liverpool Exhibition Center, where the British military is participating in COVID-19 mass testing on November 11, 2020 in Liverpool, Kingdom -United.  Wednesday marked 102 years since the armistice that marked the end of the First World War.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)

Military medics will help medics and nurses care for patients, while general duty staff will help fill in gaps caused by other absences (Photo: Getty)

CARDIFF, WALES - DECEMBER 23: Members of the military train to load and unload a stretcher into an ambulance at Maindy Barracks on December 23, 2020 in Cardiff, Wales.  The Welsh Ambulance Service has called on the military for help as it faces acute pressure on its service.  More than 90 soldiers will be enlisted from today to help drive their emergency vehicles as the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic continues to take hold on the NHS.  Members of the 9th Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, 1st Armored Medical Regiment, RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) and 4th and 5th Armored Medical Regiment will assist.  Wales has had more cases of Covid-19 in the past seven days relative to its population than any other country in the world except Lithuania.  (Photo by Matthew Horwood / Getty Images)

The Omicron wave has forced thousands of NHS workers to self-isolate (Photo: Getty)

The announcement comes after Boris Johnson said this week that ministers hope to “get through” the latest wave without needing further restrictions in England.

The military is expected to be “up to speed” over the next three weeks.

In addition, 32 military co-sponsors are provided to support the South Central Ambulance Service, working alongside paramedics through the end of March.

More than 20 NHS trusts have declared ‘critical incidents’ – an alert to signal that there are fears that priority services may not be delivered safely.

Members of the all-party health and social services committee yesterday warned that 5.8 million people are now awaiting treatment across the country, with Tory MP Jeremy Hunt urging the government to “wake up to the scale of the personnel crisis facing the NHS “.

The military is expected to be “up to speed” over the next three weeks. (Photo: AP)

CARDIFF, WALES - DECEMBER 23: A member of the military poses for a photo with an ambulance at Maindy Barracks on December 23, 2020 in Cardiff, Wales.  The Welsh Ambulance Service has called on the military for help as it faces acute pressure on its service.  More than 90 soldiers will be enlisted from today to help drive their emergency vehicles as the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic continues to take hold on the NHS.  Members of the 9th Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, 1st Armored Medical Regiment, RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) and 4th and 5th Armored Medical Regiment will assist.  Wales has had more cases of Covid-19 in the past seven days relative to its population than any other country in the world except Lithuania.  (Photo by Matthew Horwood / Getty Images)

Boris Johnson has been warned he can no longer be ‘dismissive’ of staff shortages (Photo: Getty)

Around 1,800 military personnel are already deployed across the UK to support civilian authorities in their response to the pandemic.

They include 313 staff assisting the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust and 96 with the Scottish Ambulance Service, while over 1,000 assist the vaccine booster program.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The men and women of our armed forces are rallying once again to support their dedicated NHS colleagues as they work hand in hand to protect the nation from Covid-19.

“They have shown their worth time and time again throughout this pandemic, whether it’s driving ambulances, administering vaccines or supporting hospital patients, and they should be proud of their contribution to this effort. truly national. “

Government figures showed there were 17,988 people hospitalized in the UK with Covid-19 as of January 5, up 50% week-on-week and the highest total since February 18 .

Infections remain high, with the latest official figures showing there were another 179,756 laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus recorded in the UK as of 9 a.m. on Thursday.

The epicenter of the current Covid outbreak appears to have shifted from London to the north-west, where cases are increasing rapidly.

The Royal Preston Hospital is converting its canteen into a makeshift ward to prepare for a possible increase in patient numbers.

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Separately, workers in Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital have now taken the drastic step of pulling the curtains between beds so more people can be squeezed into wards as part of “extreme measures” to deal with the personnel crisis.

Meanwhile, there are signs schools are also coming under pressure, with a third of school leaders reporting staff absence rates of over 10% for Covid-related reasons, according to a union survey NAHT.

The snap poll found the overwhelming majority (95%) had students absent due to Covid at the start of the term, while 29% said more than 10% of their students were absent.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, warned that schools were “on the brink” with considerable shortages, adding that absences due to illness could “very likely increase” during the term.

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