Javid urged to call in military to help NHS cope

Data released this week showed patients with a suspected stroke or heart attack could expect to wait for an average of an hour before an ambulance would reach them after dialling 999.

The military should be brought in to support overstretched ambulance services and to help protect patients, a leading charity has demanded.

The Patients Association has written to health secretary Sajid Javid calling on him to make a request for military aid under the Civil Contingencies Act to bring soldiers back onto the frontline of the NHS.

Throughout the summer, queues of ambulances outside hospitals have been common with some cases of patients dying in the back of ambulances before getting into hospital.

Several English ambulance trusts had help from the military during the summer, with soldiers used to help drive ambulances and increase the capacity to respond to record levels of 999 calls. However, the military aid was withdrawn this autumn.

The Patients Association urged the health secretary to also make an immediate change to call soldiers back in and to give more money to social care services. It also wants ministers to bring in new Covid restrictions in line with the government’s ‘Plan B’ for the pandemic.

This would include mandatory mask wearing and advising people to work from home.

In her letter to Sajid Javid, chief executive, Rachel Power, said: “The NHS is running red hot and a crisis is upon us. You cannot stand by while people are dying because they cannot get a hospital bed or ambulance crews are unable to reach them.”

She added: “The number of major A&E departments meeting the four-hour wait target is at a record low – 61.9 per cent against the 95 per cent target. There are 5.8 million people on waiting lists for planned care – behind this number are patients waiting in pain and worried when they might get treatment. Frontline hospital staff and paramedics are working flat out and under unrelenting stress and pressure.

“This situation cannot be allowed to continue as it is. We believe the health secretary must act now. Taken together, our suggestions will support the NHS, reduce the current serious risk of harm to patients, and help relieve pressure on staff.”

She social care needed funding to help hospitals to be able to safely discharge more patients who were medically fit meaning more beds would be available for those waiting in A&E.

Hospitals and ambulance services in Scotland and Wales are currently being supported by the military.

“We believe the military can play a significant role in supporting services in England and the health secretary should ask for their assistance immediately,” Power added.

“Introducing Plan B measures immediately will protect the NHS. Without them, many more patients who need immediate care will die. Patients with chronic health conditions will deteriorate to a point where they will never regain their health.”

The demand for military aid comes as NHS leaders told the NHS Confederation this week that the health service was at “breaking point”.

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