PARAMEDICS are calling for soldiers to set up field hospitals in Scotland’s biggest cities to ease pressure on the NHS.

Last week the Scottish Government called on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to provide 110 personnel to run Covid test centres to free up ambulance staff who currently run the sites.

Scottish Government officials then sent a second request to the MoD, this time for 90 military drivers.

The requests emerged after a 65-year-old man in Glasgow died during a 40 hour wait for an ambulance following a fall in his home and a 86-year-old woman had to wait eight hours for an ambulance after breaking a hip.

The National:

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon received both doses of the Covid vaccine at the NHS Louisa Jordan.

Now it is being reported that paramedics want the measures to go further, saying under pressure A&E departments do not have the capacity to take patients and queues of ambulances outside will only get longer.

Unite Convenor at the Scottish Ambulance Service Jamie McNamee, told the Sunday Post: “This is the worst it has ever been for waiting times but it isn’t just about being short of staff, it’s about what we do with patients when we get them to hospitals.

“We need capacity in A&Es to be increased to allow us to hand over patients. You could give me 100 additional ambulances in Glasgow tonight but it won’t make a blind bit of difference as they’ll be queued outside the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. You’ll just have longer queues.

“We need a field hospital to enable us to hand over patients to clinicians to free up mobile resources because people are dying due to delays, quite literally.”

The National:

NHS staff clear equipment from the Louisa Jordan hospital in July 2021. Photo Colin Mearns.

Another paramedic, who asked not to be named, told the paper: “You pick up a patient after a 999 call and take them to hospital, and then you’re waiting with them in the car park for hours. The system is broken - waiting eight or nine hours for an ambulance is not unusual at the moment - but one short-term solution could be for the military to set up temporary field hospitals.”

Dr John Thomson, vice-president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine Scotland, said bringing in the army should cut waits for ambulances but won’t help overstretched A&Es.

He said: “It’s not going to have any impact on waits in emergency departments in any way shape or form. It’s slowly getting worse. There are an increasing number of eight to 12-hour waits and decreasing performance overall so things are continuing to deteriorate. We’re in for an exceptionally difficult winter.

“What will fix this, from an emergency department perspective, is increased capacity.”

The army was drafted to help build the field hospital, the NHS Louisa Jordan, which was opened at the SEC in Glasgow in April last year.

Named after a Scottish nurse who died in service during the First World War in the Serbian typhus epidemic, it was operated by NHS Scotland and was planned to have an initial capacity of 300 beds, and the capability of expanding to accommodate 1000.

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It was not needed to treat Covid patients but was used as a facility for outpatient appointments for non-Covid related treatments.

A mass Covid vaccination programme took place at the NHS Louisa Jordan from December last year to July this year with the First Minister being among those who received both doses of the jag at the facility.

It was closed in July to allow the SEC to return to an events and conference centre, including preparing to host COP26 this November.

The calls come for new field hospitals as the number of people in hospital with Covid increased again, after two days of decline. According to figures published yesterday, there are now 1,052 in hospital, up 12, and 99 in intensive care, up 15. 

Another 27 Covid deaths were also recorded yesterday, and a total of 117 in the previous seven days the highest seven-day death toll since early March.

There were 6,116 Covid cases recorded yesterday, however the Scottish Government said numbers may be higher due to a backlog following technical issues at Public Health Scotland. 

UK Government sources have said it could be the end of this week at the earliest before soldiers are deployed because the requests from the Scottish Government have not yet been signed off by the MoD.

One official close to the process said: “There is still a lot to be worked out between the MoD and the Scottish Ambulance Service.”

The MoD said it had received the requests from the Scottish Government and officials are working to identify how best to assist.

Scottish Health Minister Humza Yousaf is expected to update parliament about the military deployment on Tuesday.

The Scottish Ambulance Service said: “It is extremely challenging across the NHS just now and our staff are working incredibly hard to help patients across the country.

“We are currently at our highest level of escalation and are working with health boards and the Scottish Government to address the challenges being faced through a range of actions, including the potential for targeted military assistance as in other UK ambulance services.

"We’re still in discussions with the Scottish Government about the details of military assistance.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Because of the pandemic and its knock-on effects, the Ambulance Service is under the most pressure it has ever been since the inception of the NHS in 1947.

“We are giving urgent consideration to temporary admission wards to ease bottlenecks between ambulances and our hospitals – and we are investing an extra £20 million to fund almost 300 new ambulance service staff, some of whom have already started work.

“Despite the pressures of the pandemic, our ambulance crews, who serve some of the most rural areas in the UK, responded in 2020-21 to over 70% of highest priority calls in under 10 minutes and more than 99% in under 30 minutes.”