Troops to be deployed in London to help NHS amid staff shortages

Around 200 military personnel will be sent to support NHS staff in hospitals where staffing shortages are causing significant disruption

Armed forces personnel have been deployed in London to assist the NHS as Covid and staff shortages put major pressure on the health service.

The surge in Covid cases of the new Omicron variant has hit the capital hard, while across the country there are 17 NHS trusts which have declared critical incidents.

At a glance: 5 key points

  • Around 200 military personnel will be made available to hospitals in London within days, in a bid to plug the gaps in the system left by a surge in illness and absence due to self-isolation among NHS staff
  • Teams of five, made up of one medic and four support staff, will be distributed around the hospitals which are deemed to be most in need of extra capacity, with the soldiers expected to be on hand for around three weeks 
  • Another 32 military co-responders are being provided to support the South Central Ambulance Service, working alongside paramedics until the end of March
  • Overall there are currently almost 2000 military service personnel deployed throughout the UK helping the authorities respond to the Covid pandemic, including around 1000 who are helping with the booster vaccine rollout 
  • The Royal College of Nursing has criticised Boris Johnson as being “dismissive” about the staffing crisis in the NHS, following his decision to “ride out” the Omicron surge without introducing further restrictions 

What’s been said?

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

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

Royal College of Nursing director for England, Patricia Marquis, said the deployment meant the Government could no longer deny there was a “staffing crisis” in the NHS.

“The Prime Minister and others can no longer be dismissive of questions about the ability of NHS staff to deliver safe care.

“Once the military has been brought in, where does the Government turn next in a bid to ‘ride out’ the wave rather than deal with it?”